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How to Drive in Bad Weather

The rest of the United States might consider San Diego drivers somewhat spoiled when it comes to the weather. San Diego has one of the most consistently pleasant climates in the country. Annual high temperatures typically hover around 70 degrees, and annual lows are usually around 57 degrees. On average, San Diego only sees about 10 inches of precipitation each year, usually peaking in February and very little in the summer months.

Despite the overwhelmingly nice weather of the San Diego area, bad weather sometimes happens, and San Diego drivers who travel out of state to other climate zones need to know how to handle inclement weather, especially on the road. Driving in rain, fog, ice, hail, or snow can be extremely dangerous. Keep the following advice in mind when driving in unpleasant weather.

Snow and Ice

Snow and ice are two of the worst weather-related hazards a driver can encounter on the road, and every driver in any type of vehicle should exercise a heightened degree of caution while traveling under these conditions. Snow impacts visibility and heavy snowstorms can make it nearly impossible to see very far ahead. As such, drive at a reasonable speed for your surroundings and the road conditions. Snow melts as cars travel over it, creating slippery slush that makes braking and stopping harder for most cars.

Ice accumulation on the road is another serious hazard. Ice on the road is often called “black ice,” but it’s actually transparent. It appears black because of the black asphalt beneath it, making it very difficult to spot while driving. If you can avoid driving on icy roads, do so. If you have no choice or are caught on the road in icy conditions, stay calm and do your best not to overreact if you hit an icy patch. The instinct to slam on the brakes can cause your vehicle to spin out of control, possibly striking other vehicles and causing others to swerve out of the way.

When driving on snow and ice, use easier motions when accelerating and braking. Avoid slamming on either the gas or the brakes to maintain control of your vehicle. Additionally, remember that ice sometimes simply looks like a wet road ahead. If you see what appears to be a wet road but other vehicles are not spraying water as they drive, this is an indication that the road is not wet but frozen.

Rain and Fog

Most drivers may not assume driving in the rain is that big of a deal, but accident rates increase in bad weather and rain impacts drivers’ visibility. One of the best things you can do to make driving in the rain easier is to take proper care of your windshield and wiper blades. Replace your blades at least once per year (twice, ideally) and make sure you stay topped off on wiper fluid. Water repellants for your windshield are also a good idea. These substances will cause rainwater to bead and fly off your windshield, increasing visibility.

A good rule of thumb is if you need to use your windshield wipers, you should turn on your headlights, even if driving during the day. Since rain and fog decrease visibility, do whatever you can to make your vehicle more visible to other drivers. When driving in fog, headlights will help other drivers see you and help improve your own visibility ahead.

Hydroplaning is another concern while driving in the rain. When your car hydroplanes, the tires are actually skimming the water on the road and not touching the road itself due to the vehicle’s speed. Any sudden movements can cause your vehicle to spiral out of control. Simply take your foot off of the accelerator and allow your car to coast until you lose enough speed so your tires can touch the road surface again.

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