Chapter 3

Road Conditions

When driving in poor weather conditions, it is best to stay on paved roadways and to follow in the path of the car ahead. You should also allow extra vehicle spacing allowed between your vehicle and the one you are following. Road conditions play a major role in driving. Knowledge of road conditions and weather is valuable in determining the safest route in which to travel. The following are some weather phenomena that may affect road conditions:

A. Rain / Hydroplaning - Rain often creates a thin film of water causing separation between the vehicle's tires and the road. At high speeds, water rushes between the tire and the road's surface, preventing traction. A similar effect is what allows an airplane to gain lift upon takeoff. The hydroplane induces skidding, as steering is ineffective without a connection between the vehicle and the roadway. Slower driving can help prevent this effect, as will a knowledge of what weather conditions exist prior to driving.

NOTE: Do not drive through deep water! You may get stranded, sink under water, or even be washed away. The water can damage your vehicle and hide other hazards that may exist on the roadway such as potholes. If you are already in deep water, you should slow down and shift to a lower gear.

B. Snow/Ice - Driving in snow or on ice requires substantially longer stopping distances. Additionally, there is a need to drive slower, take extra precautions on turns, and leave more room between other vehicles and curbs. You also need greater anticipation and awareness of other vehicles on the road. Removal of any snow build-up on the vehicle can help minimize the dangers of driving in snow. When driving in the snow, you should use headlights, windshield wipers and driving lamps for maximum visibility.

C. Black Ice - In cold weather, where the air lacks the precipitation necessary to create snow, falling frozen rain often leads to a hazard called “Black Ice.” This type of ice exists on the road but is not visible to the naked eye. Vehicles traveling at normal highway speeds can suddenly lose control and skid. A reduction in driving speed will help reduce the chances of skidding and related accidents due to black ice. You should always be alert for areas where ice collects. Areas where black ice is most prevalent include bridges, overpasses and shady areas.

D. Fog - In fog, low beams should be utilized and speed should be dramatically reduced. Fog lights can be turned on, but a decision should be made on whether driving should be attempted at all. In heavy fog, visibility is often less than a car length, making driving in any capacity inadvisable. When driving in fog, it is important to not drive faster than your line of sight will permit. When there is severe fog, the best option is not to drive.

E. High Winds - High winds can cause a lack of control of the vehicle with gusts often thrashing the vehicle off the road. Slower speeds can ease the danger of driving in high winds. High profile vehicles such as campers, trucks, or RVs, are often more susceptible to over-turning when high winds are prevalent.

F. Dust - Dust storms often make it virtually impossible to drive. General lack of visibility in a dust storm can only be resolved through slower driving. Often, driving in a dust storm is similar to driving in severe fog and is unwise altogether. Pulling over to the side of the road and waiting for the storm to pass is often the best option.

G. Curves - Driving on curvy roads requires slowing of the vehicle prior to approaching the curve. Braking in the curve, in addition to causing strain on the tires, may cause skidding, especially if the road is slippery. In addition, you need a heightened awareness of road and traffic conditions, as you will have difficulty seeing the road ahead.

H. Nighttime Driving - For driving at night, you should:

I. Bad Weather - Some safety tips for driving in bad weather include:


Does the winter season bring snow to your area? Are you prepared to be stuck in your car for a period of time? Be sure your vehicle can handle the rigors of winter driving before you head out by checking on the following (your mechanic can do these for you):

Before leaving home, pack a snow storm survival kit and store it in your car at all times. The kit should contain:

If you get stuck, leave your car only if it is safe to do so. You will be much safer in your car than out in the elements or exposed to traffic.

Accident Causation

Always scan the road and drive cautiously. Driver errors, not alcohol, are the cause of 82% of fatal crashes involving 16-year old drivers.

Accidents are usually caused by negligent driving. Preventing accidents involves knowledge of the road, the vehicle's own position on the road, and safe driving techniques. You should be aware of the areas most frequently traveled and know which areas are more apt to have accidents or the highest volume of traffic. These risky areas should be avoided as discretion should alter travel plans. Some of the following contribute to accidents:

A. Driving Too Closely - Maintaining proper following distance is one of the most important factors in preventing accidents. It must be understood that increased speed requires increased stopping distance. Driving too closely will lead to rear-end collisions.

1. Stopping Distance - Any regular passenger vehicle traveling a speed of 20 mph should stop within a distance of 25 feet, once the brake is applied. At 35 mph, the distance will be approximately 106 feet. At 55 mph, it will be approximately 228 feet. An increase in speed will always result in longer stopping distances. In addition, factors including road conditions, weather conditions and traffic density also affect the required stopping distance.

B. Bad Drivers - You can avoid most bad drivers with proper vehicle positioning and general road awareness. You should never assume other drivers will complete certain maneuvers simply because it might appear that way. Never take the right-of-way or attempt to force your vehicle into traffic. Anticipation of other drivers' actions, in combination with yielding the right-of- way, is important. Forfeiting the right-of-way to other drivers prevents accidents.

C. Improper Lane Choices - Choosing an appropriate and safe lane for travel on roadways will oftentimes help prevent accidents. The less congested lane with less traffic flow is typically safer, as chances for a collision are diminished. The slow lane is often the most congested as motorists are entering and exiting driveways or their vehicles, and unloading cargo or picking up passengers. Assessing the safest lane to travel in will substantially reduce the risk of a traffic mishap. The safest position in traffic in which to drive is where there are the fewest conflicting objects.

D. Improper Vehicle Positioning

Proper vehicle positioning is also important for safe driving. This includes: