While California may bring visions of sunshine and beaches to mind, it is important to remember the diversity of the California climate and weather patterns you can experience here. Northern California is no stranger to ice and snow. Other parts of the state have their own winter weather patterns that you should be aware of if you live in or visit the state. With each weather condition comes a unique set of driving hazards you should prepare yourself for. It can help keep you and others on the road safer this winter season.
Winter Driving Dangers
Let us begin with the most commonly associated dangers with winter weather. Snow, ice, and slush can occur in parts of the state in the winter months. The icy, wet, and slick roads can be a serious danger to those out on the road. One of the biggest dangers is the increased possibility of skidding or hydroplaning on wet or icy roads where your car’s tires can lose traction all too easily. In the event that you find your vehicle hydroplaning or skidding, keep in mind that you should not try to brake or turn suddenly, although this may be your initial inclination. Instead, take your foot off of the gas pedal until the vehicle slows to the point where you can feel traction on the road once again. Turn your steering wheel into the direction in which you are skidding. Once you are able to regain control of the vehicle, you will gently straighten the wheel. If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you can brake normally. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes lightly to slow down while avoiding your brakes from locking up. Anti-lock brakes have the technology to mimic the pumping action when you brake normally.
In addition to wet and icy roads, you can also find yourself on foggy roads during California winters. Remember that, in the fog, you should use your low beam headlights. High beams will be refracted in the fog and end up decreasing visibility as opposed to improving it. Also, you should slow your speed accordingly in the fog. Decreased visibility means decreased reaction time when something comes into your field of vision.
With inclement weather always a possibility, it is important to prepare accordingly. In your vehicle, carry tire chains correctly sized for your vehicle in the event you encounter snowy or icy road conditions. You should also consider carrying a bag of sand for traction. In a pinch, floor mats in the car can be used for similar purposes. Additionally, always check to make sure your vehicle is in fully operational order and that all safety features are in good, working condition. This includes windshield wipers which can be neglected all too often.
Should inclement weather be forecasted, try to avoid driving if you can. This is, of course, the safest option. If a trip out in the rain, snow, or fog is unavoidable, remember to exercise caution and proceed slower in these situations. Also, prepare yourself for the possibility of busier than normal roads this winter season. Holiday travel is in full swing at this time and the influx of drivers can cause traffic congestion and pose an added danger to life on the road. Be on the defense for tourists that do not know where they are going and may not be as aware of their surroundings as they should be.