From weekend getaways to cross-country road trips, people spend countless hours driving each year. Despite the confidence you may feel behind the wheel, there are some situations where driving is not a safe option for anyone. The weather can cause especially dangerous driving conditions, often putting a driver and their passengers in unexpected and risky situations.
As you plan your summer travel, be informed and be prepared.
Keeping an emergency kit in your car is the best way to prepare for any type of emergency on the road. Include items like a first aid kit, jumper cables, tools (like a roadside emergency kit), and maps in your emergency car kit. For a full list of items to include in your car kit visit, CDC’s Get Supplies webpage.
Here are some tips on what to do when driving through severe weather and what to do if disaster occurs when you are on the road.
Severe Rain or Floods
Heavy rainfall can quickly make driving dangerous – from slippery roads to not being able to see very far in front of you. If you get caught in a storm, remember your hazard lights and know when you need to pull over to a safe spot. If you cannot clearly see the road or road signs and signal, pull over to a safe location and leave your hazard lights on. Listen to the weather report and get to a safe location if the weather it predicted to get worse.
After a heavy rain, be aware of flooding in the area and avoid roads that may be covered in water. NEVER drive through flood waters—the water could be deeper then it appears. Six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car, and a foot of water can sweep most cars away. Turn around, don’t drown!
If there is a possibility of tornadoes in your area, avoid driving. The last place you want to be in a tornado is in a motor vehicle. Cars, buses and trucks are easily tossed by tornado winds. Do NOT try to outrun a tornado in your car. If a tornado watch or warning is issued in your area while you are in your car, immediately find a building to take shelter. If you see a tornado, stop your vehicle and get to a secure location, low to the ground and protected from flying debris if possible. Do not get under your vehicle.
If you are in your car during an earthquake, stop quickly and safely. If possible, move your car away from the shoulder or curb, avoid stopping on or under an overpass and move away from utility poles and overhead wires. Remain in your car and turn on your parking break. Your car may shake violently on its shocks, but it is a good place to remain until the shaking stops. If a power line falls on your car, call 911 or an emergency line for help, and stay inside until a trained person removes the wire. Also, tune into your local radio for emergency broadcast information on possible aftershocks and road damage caused by the earthquake. When driving after an earthquake watch for hazards, such as breaks in the pavement, downed utility poles and wires, rising water levels, fallen overpasses, and collapsed bridges.
Cars can get hot very quickly, especially if they are sitting in the sun. During a very hot day and even with the windows open, interior temperatures can rise significantly when a car is parked. Anyone left inside a car when an area is experiencing extreme heat is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death. Children and pets that are left unattended in parked cars are at greatest risk for health related illness. Never leave infants, children, older adults or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open. When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car.
Take all the precautions you can to ensure you get to your destination safely, and never attempt to drive through dangerous travel conditions. Bad weather can strike unexpectedly, so be prepared by staying informed and having an emergency kit in your car.