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How to survive driving in ‘superstorm’ conditions

Published October 30, 2012
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In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Environment Canada has been forecasting some very nasty weather over the next few days. High winds and heavy rain will make driving more dangerous than it already is.

How should motorists handle these conditions?

First, if you do not need to drive, stay home. In any weather advisory, if staying put is an option, many times that is the smart thing to do. Whether it is heavy rain, high winds, icy roads, deep snow or any other extreme conditions Mother Nature deals up, stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. No trip is worth your life.

More: 8 common winter driving mistakes

More: How to survive driving in a snow storm

Drive with your full head light system on. Don’t rely on just your Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) as they do not illuminate your rear lights. It is important in all the spray to be seen by other motorists and truckers. Visibility is often limited in these conditions and it is important to been seen. Turning on your full headlight system is best even in midday in poor weather conditions.

Slow down on wet roads. When a road is simply wet its coefficient of friction (level of grip) is cut in half compared to a dry road. That means braking distances will be twice as long and steering grip will be deduced to half. When there is any standing water, that level of grip drops off even more. In heavy rain, the danger of hydroplaning increases with the rate of rainfall and the age or wear of your tires. Less tread depth equals easier hydroplaning. Slow down. Did I mention the “slow down” part?

Stay off of flooded roads. Many times we see motorists trying to navigate flooded roadways on the six o’clock news and many times it doesn’t have a happy ending. It may look fun and it may be that challenge you’ve been looking for, but you never know what lurks under that murky water. The road could be washed out or a manhole may have blown off with the hydraulic pressure leaving a large hole for your vehicle to fall into or damage suspension parts or wheels. With modern cars running on expensive electronics and computer management equipment, any water damage could be very costly. It’s just not worth it. Find an alternate route for your own safety and savings. Even the largest road warrior SUV or pickup truck is no match for Mother Nature.

In high winds it is important to keep both hands on the wheel and your brain focused on the task of driving. All vehicles will tend to wander more in high winds. The faster your rate of travel, the more pronounced the wander will be. Slow down.

Watch for fallen trees and stay clear of downed wires. Should any overhead wires fall on your vehicle, never get out. Wait inside for emergency personnel to identify what type of wires are on or near your vehicle and verify the power is off should they be hydro wires. Keep an eye open for debris that will be blown onto roads by high winds. This could range from leaves making the road slippery to larger objects that can cause damage to your vehicle or loss of control.

Staying at home in severe conditions will also help emergency personnel with any rescue efforts by keeping the roads clear. If your vehicle is stuck on a road somewhere, it may be blocking rescue or cleanup efforts.

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