Safety tips for driving in the rain and snow

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When the Bay Area gets substantial rain, it usually means snow in higher elevations. Although that's good news for ski enthusiasts, driving in the rain and snow both lead to a number of vehicle crashes.

According to the Department of Transportation, snowy, slushy and icy roads account for nearly one in four weather-related vehicle crashes. And each year, 75 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet pavement--47 percent happen while it's raining.

Whether you're driving to work or preparing for a weekend ski trip to Tahoe, practice these safe driving tips.

Prepare your vehicle

• At the start of the rainy season, stash a winter emergency kit in your trunk. Include an ice scraper, a snow shovel, sand or salt and a blanket. If your vehicle uses them, include antifreeze and tire chains.

• Before traveling to a snowy location, take care of any car servicing issues. Get the oil changed, check the tires and windshield wipers and fill up the gas tank. AAA recommends keeping your gas tank half full to avoid a gas line freeze. Plus, if your car breaks down or you get stuck, you can keep the engine running to keep warm.

Drive safely

• When it's raining or snowing, drive with your headlights on. Reduce your speed and increase your following distance as rain or snow increase. Instead of three to four seconds, try eight to 10 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.

• Brake easily and early and proceed around corners and turns with caution.

• If it's icy, be extra careful on bridges and overpasses, as they tend to freeze first. When driving uphill, accelerate with moderation, so your wheels don't spin out, but give your vehicle enough gas to get you to the top. Otherwise, you may slide right back down.

• Apply firm, steady pressure on the brakes. The most effective technique is to use the ball of your foot to pulse the breaks. If you slam on the brakes, you'll skid.

• Don't stop unless you have to. AAA recommends you keep a steady pace going into turns and up and down hills. As you approach stoplights, start slowing well before the light so you can proceed through as the light turns green without stopping.

• In strong wind, give tractor-trailers and other large vehicles extra room. They are more likely to veer out of their lane when a gust hits.

Everyday rules become more important

• Wear your seatbelt.

• Keep your phone charged, but don't talk or text and drive.

• Make sure you're well rested before long-distance drives.

• Put extra space between you and cyclists and pedestrians. If they're out in bad weather, the last thing they want is to get splashed when your tire hits a puddle.

If you get into an accident while driving in the snow or rain and sustain injuries, first, get medical attention. Next, call a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation.

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
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