When weather changes come suddenly, there is a risk of multi-vehicle, chain-reaction crashes.
Once you’re in a chain-reaction crash, it can be hard to stop further crashes from coming – so it’s critical to know how to respond to sudden adverse weather when you’re driving.
According to a crash reconstruction expert who has analyzed over 6,000 crashes in his 50-year career, it is indeed weather that causes the vast majority of chain-reactions.
“It’s sometimes by fog, sometimes by sandstorm, sometimes by rain, but the primary contributor is icy and snowy conditions,” he told Consumer Reports.
What can you do?
Maintain extra space on all sides of your vehicle
As soon as visibility drops, be prepared for crashes up ahead. The best thing you can do, according to AAA’s manager of driver training programs, is to slow down and create some space between you and the forward vehicle. Don’t stop there, however. Try to get clearance all the way around your vehicle. Where there is a car nearby, there is a potential for a crash.
Increase your following distance
Ideally, we would all drive with large gaps surrounding us to give ourselves the necessary time to slow down or change lanes to avoid collisions. On an ordinary day, driving on a highway, you should be at least three seconds behind the car in front of you. You can test this by watching the forward car’s rear bumper pass a stationary roadside object and then counting the seconds until your front bumper passes that object.
Add a second’s worth of distance or more in darkness or when there is fog, ice or precipitation. If visibility is an issue, drop back to 8 or even 10 seconds behind the forward vehicle.
Slow down and be aware of all other vehicles
Take special notice when there are large trucks that could jackknife if forced to brake quickly. Try to notice which drivers are speeding or acting oblivious to the threating weather. Stay away from them, if possible. If you’re stuck behind a slow truck, now is probably not the time to pass. It’s frustrating, but you are safer going slower.
Don’t make any sudden moves
Whenever you’re driving in dangerous conditions, make small moves and slow down gradually. Don’t get a false sense of security if you’re driving a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle. These vehicles can speed up fast, but they can’t stop on ice any faster than other vehicles. Don’t rely on collision-avoidance technology to save you, either.
If a crash is inevitable, look for ways to minimize the damage
Don’t slam on your brakes. Instead, use them gingerly to slow down and try to steer your vehicle away from other vehicles. Head for the guardrail or off the road.
Stay in your vehicle until it is clear and safe to get out. If not possible to get away from the crash, move toward the front end of the collision so that you’re not in traffic.
Get help if you’re injured in a crash
We can be careful driving, but crashes still happen when others aren’t as careful. If you are injured, you could be facing astronomical medical bills even while you can’t work to pay them. You may be entitled to compensation from the careless or reckless driver who caused the crash.