Driving in Bad Weather

Driving under any conditions is a skill that requires your attention. But when the weather turns bad, it can be even more hazardous. Hazards you may experience include:

  • Impaired vision due to fewer daylight hours, fog, rain, low-angle sun glare, etc.
  • Pedestrians wearing darker outer clothing making them more difficult to see.
  • Road debris/flooded roads.
  • Slippery surfaces.
  • Heavy traffic/Holiday traffic.

Know Before You Go

Check road and weather/travel conditions before you travel. Links to trip check and weather websites are listed in "Web Links" below. When weather is bad, your best bet may be to postpone travel.

If it's not possible to postpone or cancel your travel plans, definitely slow down and maintain extra stopping distance between you and other drivers.

Prepare Your Vehicle

  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition.
  • Check tire tread, tire pressure, and brakes.
  • Check and replace windshield wiper blades and fluids including antifreeze.
  • Make sure your headlights/taillights are operating and are properly adjusted.
  • Make sure you have an up-to-date vehicle emergency kit.
  • Make sure your windows are clear before you drive.

Vehicle Emergency Kit

Every vehicle should have an emergency kit in it at all times, but this is especially important during inclement weather. A basic supply list is in "Supporting Documents" below.

A great holiday gift idea is to buy a sturdy backpack or athletic bag and fill it with items from this list!

Driving on Slippery Surfaces

When the roads get slippery you need to maintain a steady speed and avoid abrupt changes in direction. Maintain extra following distance to give yourself an out if you or the vehicle ahead of you starts to slide.

If you lose traction:

  • Do not take your hands off the steering wheel or close your eyes. Breathe.
  • Take your foot off the brake or accelerator.
  • Keep your head up and look in the direction you want the car to go.
  • Gently steer in the direction you want the car to go.
  • Counter-steer. As your vehicle starts to straighten out, gently counter-steer to avoid skidding in the opposite direction.

When your vehicle comes to a stop be very careful before attempting to exit. Keep your seatbelt on until you know it's safe to exit. Other vehicles may be sliding behind or in front of you and your vehicle will at least provide some protection.

When Roads Are Flooding

Re-map your route to avoid areas that are subject to flooding. The Oregon Department of Transportation provides road condition information with live cameras. See the "Web Links" below.

DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED AREAS. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Never drive around road barriers as the road or bridge may be washed out or the water may conceal another hazard. If your vehicle stalls in high water, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.

Driving in Fog

When it's foggy outside, your visibility is reduced and depth perception is affected. If you find yourself in fog...

  • Use your speedometer. Thick fog masks the sensation of speed, so use your speedometer as a guide.
  • Use low-beam headlights. You're going to naturally want to use your high-beams when it's hard to see, but in fog this further impairs your vision because the high-beam light reflects off the fog and back at your vehicle.
  • Use fog lights. If your vehicle has fog lights they can help illuminate the road.
  • Stay focused on the road. Use the right-side pavement line as a guide.
  • Increase your following distance. As with other driving situations, don't follow too close.
  • Do not stop on the road. Find a safe place to pull over as far from traffic as possible. Turn off all your lights so other motorists don't drive toward your lights thinking they are your taillights.

Fit to Drive - Designate a Driver

While you always need to be physically and mentally fit to drive, it's especially important when driving conditions become more challenging. Fitness involves being...

  • SOBER. Avoid alcohol and drugs, including over-the-counter medications.
  • ALERT. Avoid distractions, such as your cell phone, and remain focused on driving.
  • RESTED. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and avoid driving when ill.

Designate a driver ahead of time so you have a sober, alert, and rested individual to get everyone home safely!

Share Travel Plans

It's always a good idea to share your travel plans with someone. This is even more important when the weather or travel conditions are bad. Let a friend or family member know your route and intended arrival time.