As winter recedes into memory, the arrival of spring heralds the arrival of better weather and sunny driving. Spring drivers won’t have to contend with freezing roads and mountains of snow, but spring driving offers up its own challenges. Preparing for the special circumstances of spring can keep you safe on the road.
Spring Temperatures Can Fluctuate Wildly
Although spring temperatures are usually more pleasant than winter temperatures, the mercury can rise and drop abruptly, especially in the early spring. Sometimes spring nights can even dip below freezing, catching spring drivers unprepared for icy roads. Before you go out for a drive, make sure that you know what the temperatures have been like so that you can prepare for the right type of drive.
Spring Driving means Spring Rains and Flooded Roads
In many places, spring accompanies the beginning of the rainy season. Heavy rains can make spring driving significantly more dangerous; according to the Federal Highway Administration, 45% of all crashes are caused by drivers not adjusting to rainy conditions correctly. Floods are also a spring danger, and can damage your car in a number of ways. Whenever you drive in the spring, expect rain, and drive accordingly. If the roads are wet, leave extra space between you and the next car to accommodate the reduced visibility and increased stopping distances that go along with rain.
Hailstorms Are Hazardous
Spring weather conditions can sometimes lead to hailstorms, and driving through hail can be a tricky proposition. Hail can reduce visibility and make the roads more slippery, but the impact of the hail itself can be dangerous. Hailstorms are the scourge of spring driving: particularly violent hailstorms can dent your car or shatter your windows. Try to get under cover when a hailstorm strikes. If you can’t find cover, pull off to the side of the road and angle your car so that the hail is striking your windshield; your windshield is more resistant to impacts than your other windows.
Road Work Season Begins
When the snow finally begins to melt away, it’s time for road work season to begin. Drivers need to be prepared for changing conditions when roadwork is in progress, such as reduced lanes or rolling slowdowns. Potholes and other hazards may appear. Drivers also need to watch out for those who are working on the road projects and be prepared to stop.
Springtime Means More Cyclists, Bikers and Children
In the dead of winter, only the most dedicated cyclists and joggers take to the streets for their exercise. When the temperatures start to warm up, however, even the most casual fitness enthusiast is out on the road. Children are also likely to be playing outside during warm weather. Unlike adults, children tend to be more unpredictable and may dart out into the road to catch a stray ball. Pay close attention to your surroundings as you enjoy your spring driving trip to avoid an unfortunate accident.
General Spring Driving Safety Tips
Following safety tips for the spring driving season can help keep you safe on the road. Also make sure to give your car a good cleaning and check-up.
- Regularly inspect all the lights on your vehicle. Rain and hail can hinder visibility, so you need to make sure that all of your lights are in good working order in case a sudden storm hits. Without proper lighting, it can be difficult to see other vehicles, or be seen by other drivers.
- Replace your windshield wipers at the start of spring. Winter can be tough on your wipers, especially if you had to drive through snow. Worn-out wipers don’t perform as effectively and can leave blurry streaks on your windshield, making it difficult to see the road through your smeared windshield.
- Keep your tires properly inflated. The temperature swings of winter can strain the rubber in your tires, potentially compromising their ability to hold air. If your tires aren’t properly inflated, you might not be able to drive in spring conditions safely. Check your air pressure regularly with a tire pressure gauge and make sure that they stay reliably inflated according to your manufacturer’s instructions.
- Drive slowly. It will give you more time to react to surprises on the road, such as cyclists or children who are playing. You’ll also be better able to handle the often wet roads of the spring season if you’re not trying to break your personal speed record.
- Pay attention to the condition of the roads. The state of the road can change greatly from day to day and even from hour to hour. Spring is not the time to grow complacent on the road. Sudden rainstorms can impair visibility and increase stopping distances, and unexpected overnight freezes can leave icy patches on the road in the morning. Spring weather can also breed potholes unexpectedly, making the road bumpier and more hazardous than you may expect. Roadwork can restrict traffic flow and may even force you to change your driving habits.
- Avoid puddles. When you’re driving, you often have no way of knowing how deep a puddle might be. Even if you’re familiar with the road, a puddle may be concealing a pothole. Driving over a deep puddle presents a number of dangers; hitting a pothole at full speed, for example, can damage your wheels or your suspension. Puddles can cause your vehicle to hydroplane, making it more difficult to control your car as you drive through the puddle. If you’re very unlucky, driving through a puddle can even cause your engine to stall.
- Use medication responsibly. For many drivers, the arrival of spring also signals the arrival of hay fever, runny noses, and other allergies. If you need to use medication to deal with your allergies, make sure that it’s safe to drive while under the effects of your medication. Some side effects that may simply be inconvenient during your regular life, such as drowsiness, can be extremely dangerous when you’re behind the wheel of your car.
Spring offers a welcome change to the challenges of winter driving, but spring driving isn’t without its own challenges. Being prepared for unpredictable weather, roadwork, and the increased presence of pedestrians can keep you safe during your spring drives.
What have you done to prepare your car for spring conditions?