Weather conditions that make it difficult to drive are many and dangerous, accounting for 21 percent of all car accidents. Rain, ice, and snow can make for slick roads and poor tire traction. Bright sun and foggy skies can make it hard for drivers to see. It’s all too easy to lose control of your vehicle in such difficult driving conditions. Many of us would rather stay home than risk our necks, those of our passengers, and our fellow drivers on the road.
Rain is dangerous because rain can make it hard for you to see and for your tires to grip the road. Rainwater mixes with the dirt that collects on the asphalt. The resulting mixture of rain and dirt hinders traction, the friction between surfaces that holds them together. In tire traction, the surfaces that must hold each other are road and tire made of asphalt and rubber. Poor tire traction cause a car to slip off course. When a car slides out of control, this is called hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is a major risk factor for car crash fatalities.
Visibility is also affected by rain. When it rains, drivers see the road, objects, and other drivers, through water. In a sudden, massive downpour, a driver may have little to no visibility. What can be seen appears blurry and indistinct.
The combination of poor tire traction and poor visibility are the danger with rain. That and the fact that it can rain at any time and in every season. The flipside of that is that we tend to become safer, more experienced drivers over time, most of us having lots of exposure to rain.
Snow has all the driving downsides of rain: poor traction and visibility. Added to these dangers, cold weather is hard on cars. The cold can strain your batteries, affect the fluids under your hood, and how long your tires last. Rock salt can eat away at your car’s undercarriage.
Icy Weather Conditions
Icy roads hamper tire traction making it take more time for a vehicle to come to a stop. The amount of time it takes for a vehicle to come to a complete stop is called braking distance. On icy roads, braking distance can double. Driving faster increases it further. If the driver doesn’t brake in time, the car could may hit cars, objects, or pedestrians.
Black ice is of particular concern because it is hard to see. If the driver doesn’t see the ice, he cannot anticipate the dangers, for example the increase in braking distance. In loose technical terms, black ice is a clear film of ice through which one can see straight through to the black surface of the road. To the driver, the road looks only wet, and not icy, so the driver doesn’t slow down as he should to compensate for the increased braking distance.
Bright sun affects a driver’s vision. As the sun rises and falls, the sun can shine straight into a driver’s eyes. The glare can be blinding. Strong sun can also cause a driver to squint or have watery eyes. A driver may also flinch in response to a sudden glare. The driver is uncomfortable and cannot see the road or avoid potential hazards, presenting a danger them and to others.
Fog is trickier even than sunlight for the driver. Foggy skies can reduce visibility to under ¼ mile. The fog makes our vision cottony and clouded. A driver may feel like he is going slower than they are in reality. It is hard to see the lights or signs ahead until you are in danger of collision.
Difficult driving weather conditions abound, and also includes hazards such as flooding, tornadoes, sleet, hurricanes, hailstorms, muddy roads and more. What all of these driving perils have in common is that they require special care and precautions to compensate for the effects of changing conditions. In some cases, even that is not enough. Sometimes, when the weather isn’t right for driving, it’s best to stay home.