Drive Safely: Ways to Reduce Effects of Severe Driving

Drive Safely - Ways to Reduce Effects of Severe Driving

Are you a severe driver? Normal driving is defined as steady driving in non-extreme weather or environments, so for most motorists today, being a severe driver is more the rule than the exception.

Driving in perfect weather is hard enough, but when severe weather hits, it’s important to take extra precautions. You probably already know that slowing down and increasing concentration can make a big difference. But these extra precautions for specific kinds of weather can help you get to your destination safely.

According to the non-profit Car Care Council, severe driving includes:

  • Stop-and-go traffic
  • Short commutes
  • Heavier loads: cargo, passenger or towing a trailer
  • Rough or mountainous roads
  • Dusty or salty environments
  • Driving in extremely hot or cold weather

Tips For Driving in Ice or Snow

  • Slow down. Bridges and overpasses freeze first, so take it slow and avoid sudden changes in speed or direction.
  • Keep windows clear. Visibility is crucial, especially in bad weather. Turn on the lights and wipers and crank up the defroster, if necessary. Scrape the ice off of your windows before you leave to ensure proper visibility. Also make sure that all items are removed from the back window area. If you’re still having trouble seeing, carefully pull over to a safe location well off the roadway.
  • Brake cautiously. Abrupt braking can cause lock-up and loss of steering control. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal.
  • Resist the urge to “floor it.” If you get stuck in snow, straighten the wheels and accelerate slowly. Avoid spinning the tires. Use sand or blocks under the drive wheels.

Tips For Driving in Rain

  • Turn on wipers. Yes, it’s obvious, but remember to keep them maintained. A beam wiper blade will provide more uniform contact with the glass in the rain. Wipers should be replaced every six to twelve months for optimal performance.
  • Use headlights. Visibility is usually compromised in rainy conditions. Headlights can help. All states have laws requiring the use of headlights in low visibility, and many states require headlights when wipers are in use.
  • Keep windows clear. The defroster or air conditioner may help keep windows and mirrors clear.
  • Be patient. Take it slower than normal. Leave more room when stopping. Wet pavement may cause loss of traction and lead to sliding or hydroplaning.
  • Go around. Never cross a flooded roadway, because it’s tough to tell how deep the water is. Take the time to find an alternate route. The last thing you want is to get caught in a flash flood.
  • Turn off cruise control. When roads are wet it is best to allow the driver to control speed and react to conditions.

For the complete tips, you can See our guide on the Safe Driving Tips For Rainy Days.

Tips For Handling Your Vehicle in High Winds

  • Look out. Keep an eye out for flying debris. And use extra caution near trailers, vans, or vehicles carrying lightweight cargo.
  • Some cars shouldn’t be driven. It’s best not to drive a trailer, van, or other “high-profile” vehicle (autos with high centers of gravity like SUVs and trucks) in high winds.

Tips For Navigating in the Fog

  • Turn on the low beams and fog lights. Day or night, headlights should be on and set to low beam. High beams can worsen visibility as they reflect off the fog.
  • Wait it out. If you’re having trouble seeing, safely pull over to the right side – well out of the traffic lane – and turn on your emergency flashers. Wait until visibility improves before continuing.

Severe Weather Driving Tips

  • Turn on headlights and wipers.
  • Listen to the radio. Tune into a local weather station for storm and traffic updates.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado. Get out of the car and find shelter. If you can’t reach a safe structure, lie down in a ditch or low area. Stay face down to protect yourself from flying debris, and cover the back of your head and neck with your hands. Stay alert for flash floods.
  • Don’t wait. Leave low-lying areas and move inland.

Driving In All Types of Weather

  • Buckle up. Every trip, every time.
  • Focus on your destination and avoid distractions.
  • Emergency Kit. Pack and store an emergency kit in your trunk or cargo area with items you could use in the event of a roadside situation.
  • Recalls. Check to be sure there are no safety recalls on your vehicle.

Special Tips for Commercial Drivers

  • Watch out for Rollovers. Due to their large surface area and high center of gravity, commercial vehicles can be highly susceptible to rolling over in high winds. Be sure to assess safety and weather conditions before you get on the road.
  • Severe Winds. Due to trucks feeling greater impact in high winds, they possess sufficient risk of winds veering them out of their lane of travel in severe weather.
  • Lost or Damaged Cargo. If your cargo becomes lost or damaged in severe weather, stop and pull off the road. Contact police to warn and divert traffic to lanes without debris. Remove debris from road, as long as you can do it safely – or wait for police. Place flares near vehicle to warn upcoming vehicles.

“While most driving is considered ‘severe’ according to the definition, limiting the amount of wear and tear on your vehicle, and improving fuel economy, can be achieved in a few easy steps,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “By taking action, your vehicle will perform safely, dependably and efficiently with proper maintenance and repairs for years to come, regardless of the driving conditions.”

The Car Care Council recommends that motorists be car care aware and take a few easy steps to reduce the effects of severe driving on their vehicles.

  • Follow the “severe” service schedule in your owner’s manual.
  • Check fluids, including oil, and filters more frequently.
  • Have certain components such as brakes and shocks inspected more regularly.
  • Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 mph.
  • Avoid quick starts and stops. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage.
  • Don’t haul unneeded items in the trunk as extra weight will reduce fuel economy.
  • Keep your car properly tuned to improve gas mileage.
  • Order a free copy of the 80-page Car Care Guide at

The council’s popular Car Care Guide is available electronically or printed copy in English and Spanish. The guide covers major vehicle systems, component groups within the vehicle, service interval recommendations and much more.