You do not have to live in a city that regularly sees snow to face increased winter weather driving risks. As a resident of sunny San Diego, you could still be at risk of serious accidents even if it does not snow. Paying special attention to winter-related roadway hazards could help you prevent a car accident in the cold-weather months.
Driving in Rain
Winter brings with it some of the wettest months of the year for Southern California residents. Storm systems passing through the region can bring days of rain and even snow. According to the U.S. Department of Highway Transportation, the most dangerous road weather condition is wetness. Wet pavement causes 70% of all weather-related accidents in the U.S, as well as 78% of related injuries and 76% of deaths. Rain is specifically responsible for 46% of weather-related car accidents.
Do your best to prevent an accident in rainy or wet winter weather by preparing for the trip. Check the weather and inspect your car before embarking on a wintertime road trip. Inspect your vehicle for worn tires, bad brakes, lack of wiper fluid, broken lights and other hazards that could compromise your safety while driving in wet weather. If the forecast is predicting a storm, try to move your trip to a different day. Otherwise, focus on driving safely in the rain.
Driving on wet roads requires reduced speeds and greater following distances. It can be more difficult to stop suddenly on wet roads as the water can cause the tires to skid. Drive slowly and carefully on wet roads, especially in the first 10 minutes. The roads will be the slickest then as rainwater mixes with motor oil on the roads. Use your headlights and apply the brakes slowly when needed. If you start to hydroplane, turn the wheel in the direction of the spinning and take your foot off the gas until you can slow to a stop.
Driving in Fog or Mist
Wintertime fog in San Diego can impede visibility and cause slower traffic and sudden speed variances. Fog is responsible for only about 3% of weather-related crashes in the U.S, but it is still a significant hazard. Driving in fog takes vigilance and strict attention to the road. Use your low-beam headlights, as high beams can reflect off the water particles in the fog and make it harder to see. Drive slowly and avoid switching traffic lanes. Do not stop along the side of the highway except in an emergency.
Driving in Ice or Snow
Snow and ice are uncommon in San Diego, but they are still possibilities during particularly cold and stormy winters. Keep an eye on weather reports to find out whether to expect snow, sleet, hail or ice on the roads. If so, stay at home. If you must go out in a snow or ice storm, be extremely careful behind the wheel. Drive at or below the speed limit and keep both eyes on the road at all times. Snow and sleet cause 18% of weather-related car accidents, while icy pavement causes 13%. Ice on the asphalt can cause your vehicle to skid and lose control. Drive slowly and leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Be prepared to stop at a moment’s notice, but avoid slamming on the brakes. Slowly tap the brakes to help prevent locking up on icy pavement.
Prepare for Anything
Driving in winter in San Diego can come with enhanced risks in terms of auto accidents. If you plan on being on the road this winter in Southern California, stay prepared. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle with first aid supplies, a blanket, water, nonperishable food items and a radio. Inspect your vehicle regularly to make sure it has the correct fluid levels and tire inflation. Take your vehicle to a professional mechanic for an inspection and tune-up before a long wintertime car trip. Check the weather before you embark so you know what to expect. Drive safely this winter to protect yourself and others.