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How Can I Drive Safely in Bad Weather?

In general, avoiding car trips during inclement weather is the safest option. However, in the event that you do need to drive somewhere in the rain or during a snowstorm, driving slowly, using brakes gently, and not tailgating other cars will help you get to your destination safely.

On average, close to 6,000 people are killed and over 445,000 people are injured in crashes caused by bad weather each year.1 No matter where you live in the country, at some point you will need to navigate driving in rain, snow, fog, or hail. Here are some driving tips to help you stay safe in adverse weather.

driving in snow
  1. Drive Slowly: The best thing you can do when driving in the rain or when driving in the snow is to drive slowly. When you drive slowly, you maintain better control of your car. Also, if you do get into an accident, the slower you are driving, the less likely it is that the accident will be severe. When in doubt, reduce your speed to at least ten miles below the speed limit.
  2. Defrost Your Windows Completely: Before driving, take the time to defrost your windows completely. You never want to get in a car during a snowstorm or rainstorm without complete visibility. Even if you’re using safe driving techniques, cars around you may not be, so it’s better if you can see all around you to take note of what other drivers are doing.
  3. Tap Your Brakes: If you are driving in hail, snow, or ice and need to come to a stop, tap your brakes repeatedly to slow down. Your first instinct may be to slam on your brakes, but this could make your car slide or result in you losing control. Instead, tap on your brakes lightly, until you come to a stop. If you feel yourself starting to slide and you are going fast, then sometimes it’s better to let your feet off the gas, slide through the icy or snowy section of the road, and then tap your brakes to come to a smooth stop.
  4. Keep a Safe Distance: When driving in normal conditions, it’s best to stay three or four car lengths away from the car in front of you. To accommodate for unforeseen problems when driving in snow or rain, double this to keep a safe distance between you and other cars.
  5. Turn On Your Fog Lights: They are called fog lights for a reason—they really can help you see better when driving in fog. Fog lights are a dimmer yellow rather than bright white, so they cut through fog much better and will help you navigate the streets safely.
  6. Avoid Side Roads: You may be used to taking shortcuts on your way to work or home, but when you are driving in the snow, it’s better to take more popular roads. Why? Because city officials make plowing more popular roads a priority. There will also be more cars around to help you if you do get stuck or slide off the road.
  7. Avoid Flooded Areas: You can expect to pass through a puddle when you are driving in the rain, but do everything you can to avoid extensively flooded areas. It’s difficult to tell how deep a flooded area is, and you don’t want to risk water getting sucked into your air intake valve, which could shut off your car at best and ruin your car at worst. Find an alternate route or wait until waters recede to cross the area.
Again, if at all possible, wait until the storm passes to drive; if you must drive, then follow the tips outlined above.

For more information about safety while driving or at home, check out our resources page. We also recommend taking a look at our winter safety kit resource or our guide to safe winter driving to ensure you have everything you need to stay secure on the road.

  1. US Department of Transportation, “How Do Weather Events Impact Roads?