High Wind on the Open Road: 5 Driving Tips for Hurricane Season

Posted by Safeco May 16, 2016
Driving Through High Winds

Slow Down and Keep Your Grip If You’re on the Road During High Winds and Other Stormy Weather

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1, and forecasters are expecting an average year of storm activity. That means 13 named storms and two major storms (Category 3-5) are likely to occur during the 2016 season, according to Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science.

Weather science coupled with satellite technology have progressed in recent decades to the point that, although they can’t tell you ahead of time exactly when those tropical storms and hurricanes are going to occur, they can usually provide enough advance warning to help keep you from getting caught by surprise.

Still, you may find yourself on the road during high winds, and not just along the eastern coast during hurricane season. High winds can create dangerous driving conditions in any part of the country, at any time of year.

Severe thunderstorm winds, for example, can reach speeds of up to 100 mph, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. And, downslope winds coming off the western U.S. mountain ranges can also create hazardous conditions.

So, what’s the first rule of driving in high winds? Don’t.

If there’s a forecast of dangerous weather and it’s safe to stay where you are, do so. If you just can’t delay your trip, however, remember these guidelines to help increase your chances of coming through a windstorm safely:

  1. Slow down: Leave a larger buffer zone than normal between you and the vehicles ahead. Your car may not handle as well when buffeted by wind, and you may want more room to react to surprises. Even if there are no other vehicles close by, play it safe and slow down.
  2. Get a grip: Grip the steering wheel firmly with both hands to help prevent wind gusts from wrenching it away. Keep your left hand at or near the 9 o’clock position and your right at 3 o’clock.
  3. Expect gusts: Sudden gusts can push your car into the next lane or even off the road. They may occur randomly, but there are certain situations when you should be particularly cautious:

    • Emerging from a protected area into an exposed area, such as from a stretch of road lined with trees on either side to an open plain, or when passing from behind the protection of a large truck. Watch vehicles ahead of you for warnings of upcoming gusts.
    • Crossing over an exposed bridge.
    • Driving large and tall vehicles. Trucks, buses, campers, RVs and trailers are particularly susceptible to gusts. A cartop carrier will make a small passenger car more vulnerable.
    • Sharing the road with large vehicles. Even if your car has a low profile, be aware of nearby vehicles that could be blown across your path.

  4. Watch for blowing objects and roadway hazards: Tree limbs and other large, heavy objects can blow across the highway, suddenly blocking your path. Keep alert to these potential hazards, especially downed power lines. Never drive over downed power lines or across a flooding roadway.
  5. Look for shelter: Sometimes the best plan is to pull over and wait it out. If you’re having trouble maintaining control, start looking for a safe place. Don’t just stop on the side of the road. Pull off a safe distance, away from trees and power lines. An overpass may provide shelter from extreme winds, but be wary of buildings that aren’t sturdily built. And, if heavy rain accompanies the high winds, don’t stop in a low-lying area near a body of water. It may flood and sweep your car away.

No matter the weather conditions, always remember to buckle up and be prepared. Maintain your car in top working condition. Know the weather forecast, follow evacuation orders and map out a safe route. Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your car. And, review your auto insurance regularly. Is it a good idea to expand your collision or comprehensive coverage? Time to add roadside assistance or personal property coverage to your policy? Your independent insurance agent can help you protect your assets while minding your budget.


More Driving Safety Tips

Distracted drivers, wet roads, uninsured motorists – all kinds of factors contribute to making the road a dangerous place. For more driving safety tips, check out the Driving and Car Safety area of our blog.

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