As the state faces wet weather in many areas, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) encourages all California drivers to make sure they are storm ready.
Driving can be challenging in the best of weather conditions. But when snowstorms, mudslides, torrential rain and high winds occur, drivers can be much more prone to committing roadway errors that lead to accidents.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning to drive during inclement weather.
Rain and Wind
- Don’t drive in water if you can’t see road markings. A vehicle can float in just one foot of water. It’s safer to turn around and find another route.
- Turn on headlights.
- Try to stay in the middle lane where flooding is less likely.
- Reduce speed and allow extra space between vehicles.
- Keep an eye on high profile vehicles such as large trucks and buses during windy conditions.
- If side winds occur while driving, steer your vehicle gently and slowly in the opposite direction.
- If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas pedal, but don’t push hard on the brakes. Instead, apply the brakes in a steady manner and steer in the direction of the skid. For vehicles with anti-lock brakes, apply more pressure to the brakes, but avoid pumping them.
- Allow enough time for your travel. Trips to the mountains can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
- Dress for the weather. Make sure you’re wearing weather-appropriate clothing to stay warm enough, especially if you get stuck in your vehicle.
- Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.
- Keep windshield and windows clear. You may want to stop at a safe turnout to use a snow brush or scraper. Use the car defroster and a clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog.
- Slow down. A highway speed of 65 miles per hour may be safe in dry weather, but can be an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt buckled and leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead.
- Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles that have flashing lights, visibility may be so restricted during a storm that it I’s difficult to see the slow-moving equipment.
- When stalled, stay with your vehicle, and try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth. Be alert to any possible exhaust or monoxide problems.
- Give snowplows room to work. A “strike team” may include several plow trucks, including Tow Plows and wing plows using multiple lanes on a major highway. Stay at least four (4) car lengths back from snowplows and snow removal equipment.
- Equipment operators must focus on snow removal and cannot always watch out for motorists. Refrain from, or use extreme caution, when passing snow removal equipment.
If Your Car Breaks Down
If you must stop, pull to a safe place close enough to the side of the road for others to see you and turn on your hazard lights. If safe to do so, it’s best to stay in your vehicle and out of the cold.
If you’re waiting for help for an extended period of time, you can run your engine for about ten minutes every hour to stay warm. Just make sure to check that your car’s exhaust pipe is clear first and open a window slightly for ventilation.
If you have to spend the night in your car, turn on the interior overhead light so others, including rescuers and work crews, can see you.
Preparing before you hit the road and following these tips can help make your winter travel safer, so you can enjoy time with your loved ones.
Car Emergency Kit
In case you get stranded, keep an emergency supply kit in your car with these necessities:
- Jumper cables
- Flares or reflective triangle
- Portable phone charger
- Non-perishable snacks
- First aid kit
Know Before You Go
Unpredictable weather also means road conditions and routes are subject to change as quickly as the weather does. It’s important to get information about road conditions from a reliable source, such as QuickMap from Caltrans. Drivers are encouraged to download the free QuickMap mobile app to have road conditions in the palm of their hands. Road conditions are also available online at quickmap.dot.ca.gov.