person behind wheel of car driving in the rain

Tips for Driving Safely in Unfamiliar California Weather

It seems that the weather in Los Angeles, and throughout California, has been worsening with each passing year. From torrential rain to unusual amounts of snow, drivers have been facing increasingly difficult—and for many unfamiliar—road conditions. Sadly, many have been seriously injured or lost their lives due to their or another driver’s inability to safely negotiate severe weather.

In this blog post, we provide tips on the types of weather-related hazards you might encounter as climate change continues to impact our state. Read on to learn how to reduce the risk from frequent contributors to automobile accidents.

Avoiding a Car Crash in Severe Weather

Whether you are a brand-new or highly experienced driver, heavy storms pose a significant challenge. Obviously, your best recourse is to wait until the rain or snow eases up or stops altogether. However, if that is not an option, here are steps you should take to drive safely.

If you’re aware of the severe weather before leaving home, make sure all the equipment in your car for keeping you safe is in working order. This includes:

  • Headlights and taillights
  • Tire tread on all four tires (check that depth is above 2/32 inches, s recommended by the US Department of Transportation)
  • Windshield defrost system (ideally for front and back windows)
  • Windshield wipers and blades

According to California law (and common sense), if your windshield wipers must be in continuous use due to rain or other precipitation, you must turn your headlights on and keep them on throughout your drive. This not only makes it easier for you to see but improves other driver’s ability to see you.

Adjust your windshield wiper speed as needed to keep your windshield clear. Heavy rain or snow may ease up as you go, in which case you should reduce your wiper speed so that your windshield stays clear without smearing. Conversely, if when you started out the rain was light but becomes heavy, it’s time to increase your wiper speed.

The humidity in your car increases in damp weather, and the contrast between the interior temperature of your vehicle and the outside can quickly fog up your windows. Turn your defrost on high and direct the vents up toward the windshield if it’s cold. If the weather outside is hot, then try also turning on your air conditioning to dry the air and reduce moisture inside your vehicle. If nothing is working, try cracking your windows to improve air circulation.

Avoid Car Accidents by Adjusting Your Bad Weather Driving Habits

Once you’re out on the road, go slowly! This is not the time for speeding, and even going the posted speed limit might be too fast for the weather conditions. Not only is your visibility severely reduced, making it challenging to see other vehicles or hazards ahead of you, such as puddle-filled potholes or icy patches.

Avoid the risk of hydroplaning on slick road surfaces. This occurs when your car’s tires lose traction, which can occur in mere inches of water or when going over ice, and you find yourself unable to steer your vehicle. If you do hydroplane though, don’t panic! Ease your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction the front of your car is veering until you regain control. If you must apply your brakes, do so lightly, as slamming them on will only lead to or worsen skidding.

Keep a greater distance than usual between yourself and other cars, trucks, or motorcycles ahead of you. In good weather conditions, you should maintain approximately one car length for every ten miles of travel speed between yourself and other vehicles (also known as the “three-second” rule). In heavy downpours or whiteout snow, you should increase this significantly. For example, if you drive 55 MPH with six car lengths between you and the driver ahead in clear weather, increase this by another two or three car lengths. It might take longer for your car to come to a stop in the rain, sleet, or snow, especially if you must stop suddenly, which only increases the risk of losing control altogether. If you do have to stop unexpectedly, take your foot off the accelerator rather than jamming your brakes.

Snowstorms are rare in California, but they do happen, particularly in the higher reaches of Los Angeles and other mountainous regions. If the snow becomes so heavy you cannot see more than a foot or so ahead of you, find a safe place to pull over and wait it out.

If your car becomes trapped in a snowbank or you’re involved in a single-vehicle crash with no one else around, do not attempt to hike through the cold and snow for help. Stay inside your vehicle and call for assistance using your cell phone or an onboard vehicle assistance system like OnStar®. Far too many Californians and visitors to our state have lost their lives when attempting to hike to safety in winter storms.

Other Dangerous Road Conditions for California Drivers

Do not attempt to drive through flooded areas. Drivers wrongly think they can make it through flooded sections of roadways, only to wind up trapped when their engines flood. Braking is also next-to-impossible in deep water, which could cause you to lose control and crash into another car or object. If you cannot navigate around the flooded area, you might have to turn back the way you came and try to find an alternate route. While this might be extremely inconvenient, it is still safer and smarter than attempting to plow through deep water that could ruin your car, lead to an accident, or in the worst case, endanger your life if you’re trapped and the water rises to a level you cannot escape.

California has the unfortunate distinction of experiencing more mudslides than most other states. If a mudslide traps you in your car, look out your windows and see if you can spot an escape route that will take you completely clear of the area. If so, then see if you can either open a door to exit or climb out through one of your windows. If you don’t see a definite avenue of escape, stay inside your vehicle with the windows rolled up. You might have to wait until rescuers arrive, but your car should keep you safe from serious injury from mud and debris.

When an Accident Happens, We are Here to Help

Even if you do everything right in dangerous weather, other drivers might not. Those who are reckless and ignore the need to slow down and take extra precautions despite heavy storms and other natural hazards deserve to be held accountable when they injure innocents. If you or your family member was seriously hurt in a car accident, attorney Scott J. Corwin will vigorously pursue your right to fair compensation for your damages.

Contact our office today by calling (310) 683-2300 or filling out the online contact form to discuss the details of your case and learn more about how we can help you. We offer free consultations, so there’s no reason not to reach out to someone from our team right away.