Anyone who’s lived in North Texas for awhile knows that we don’t tend to get gentle rainstorms. Our spring weather comes with lots of lightning and thunder, torrential rains, flooding, high winds, hail, and sometimes even tornadoes. When we talk about driving in inclement weather, we are often talking about some very dangerous situations. Here at Accident & Injury Chiropractic, we want to be sure you know how to manage them safely.
Lightning & Thunderstorms
If you’re caught in a storm with lightning, you’re safest in an enclosed metal vehicle—one with a hard top with all the windows shut. If your car is struck by lightning, the current will flow through the metal body to the ground. If you know a storm is coming, don’t drive in an open or soft-topped vehicle, as they won’t provide that kind of protection. Don’t touch anything metal in your car during a lightning storm. This could include the radio, cell phone charger, mobile GPS device, door handles, and the steering wheel. If you’re on a motorcycle or bicycle, don’t seek shelter under trees, as that would greatly increase your chances of being struck by lightning.
Heavy rain can reduce visibility and create dangerous road conditions. If possible, you should pull off at the nearest exit and find shelter. If there is no shelter available, consider pulling over, turning off your engine, and activating your hazard lights until it’s safe to drive again. If you must continue to drive, slow down and keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. Use your low-beam headlights and turn on your air conditioner to prevent internal condensation on your windshield. If you hit a slick spot on the road and begin to hydroplane, take your foot off the accelerator and do not apply your brakes.
Never drive through deep, fast-flowing water and don’t travel on flooded roads if you can avoid them. Instead, find an alternate route. It’s better to add extra time to your drive than to risk damaging your car’s engine and electrical system or, even worse, risk it being swept away. If you absolutely must drive through a flooded area, try to find out how deep it is first. You can wade out into the water or watch other cars go before you. (Never wade out into moving water.) Most experts advise that a standard car can safely drive into water that is 10 cm (3.9 in). Before you enter the water in your car, let all oncoming traffic through first. Drive along the highest point of the road—which is usually the middle. Drive slowly, about 3-4 mph, to prevent your car’s tires from losing contact with the road. If that happens, don’t brake. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator, keep the steering wheel straight, and wait for your tires to grip again. Don’t stop, or water could get into the exhaust pipe. If you’re driving an automatic car, keep it in the lowest gear, and keep your foot on the accelerator. After you make it through the water, gently press your car’s brakes a few times to dry them off.
When winds are high and gusty, it may be wisest to pull off the road and wait until the wind dies down and you are better able to control your vehicle. If you must drive in windy conditions, you should first lower your speed. Driving slower than the posted speed limit will help you to be better able to handle your car. Heavy winds make it harder to steer, so keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. A Pay close attention to the road and anticipate wind gusts. Also, be aware of bigger vehicles on the road. Large trucks, vans, buses, and those towing cargo are vulnerable to losing control or tipping over in high winds. They can also create turbulence for motorcycles and other small vehicles. Be aware that winds tend to be worse in exposed places like straight, open roads, on bridges and overpasses, and between hills.
Hail can create slick conditions on the road that can catch drivers off guard. The chunks of ice can obscure your vision and create dents in your windshield. It can even break through your windows and cause serious accidents. To drive through hail with as little risk as possible, first slow down. Faster speeds will multiply the impact of hail on your vehicle. Turn on your emergency flashers and your cars low-beam headlights. While driving, maintain 3 times the usual distance from the vehicle in front of you. As soon as you are able, you should pull to the side of the road and stop your car. Avoid pulling over in ditches or low-lying areas where water can accumulate. If you are on a highway with an overpass, pull under it and get as far to the right as you can. If you can take an exit, do so and find shelter. If there is no shelter available, turn your car so that the hail hits the front. Do not exit your vehicle! Protect yourself from broken glass in the car by reclining your seat to move you as far from the windshield as possible, and turn your back to the windows. Have passengers in the back seat sit on the floor and cover themselves with a blanket, if possible.
If you’re driving and spot a tornado nearby, do not try to outrun it. Instead, pull over, duck down below the windows in your car, keep your seatbelt fastened, and cover your head with your hands or a blanket or cushion. If the tornado is off in the distance, try driving away from the funnel cloud at a 90-degree angle from its path. Look for a sturdy building to seek shelter. Or pull over, exit your vehicle, and take cover in a low-lying ditch on the side of road. Cover your head with your hands. Do not hide under an overpass where winds can actually be worse and debris can fly through it.
At Accident & Injury, we hope this information will keep you safe in the month of April and beyond.