Driving in severe weather can be challenging and dangerous, so it's crucial to be well-prepared before taking the road. 

From heavy rain and snow to fog and ice, severe weather conditions can significantly impact your ability to drive safely. 

According to the Worker’s Safety & Compensation Commission, nearly 30% of car accidents in Canada happen on snowy or icy roads. By understanding the risks and knowing how to handle them, you can protect yourself, your passengers, and others on the road.

This blog will provide essential tips for driving in various severe weather conditions. We will cover how to prepare your vehicle before you set out, including checking your tires, brakes, and windshield wipers. 

Additionally, we'll discuss the importance of having an emergency kit in your car, filled with items like blankets, food, water, and a first-aid kit, to ensure you're ready for any unexpected situations.

These tips can enhance your driving skills and ensure your safety in severe weather. 

10 Practical Tips for Safe Driving in Severe Weather


Driving in severe weather requires extra caution and preparation to ensure your safety and that of others on the road. 

Practical driving tips for severe weather conditions involve a combination of vehicle readiness, appropriate driving techniques, and situational awareness. 

This section will explore specific strategies to help you safely navigate adverse weather conditions.

1. Reduce Speed

One of the most crucial tips for driving in severe weather is to reduce your speed. Severe weather conditions such as rain, snow, fog, or ice can significantly impair visibility and road traction, making it harder to control your vehicle. 

Here's why reducing speed is essential and how to do it effectively:

  1. Improved Reaction Time: Lowering your speed gives you more time to react to unexpected situations. Whether it's a sudden stop by the vehicle in front of you or an obstacle on the road, a slower speed means you have more time to assess and respond to hazards.

  2. Enhanced Vehicle Control: High speeds reduce the effectiveness of your tires' grip on the road, especially in wet or icy conditions. Slowing down helps maintain better traction and control, reducing the risk of skidding or sliding.

  3. Shorter Stopping Distance: Wet or icy roads increase the distance it takes for your vehicle to come to a complete stop. Driving slower helps ensure you can stop within a safe distance, preventing collisions.

  4. Visibility Considerations: Visibility is significantly reduced in conditions like heavy rain or fog. Slowing down allows you to see and process potential hazards better, making it safer to navigate through low-visibility areas.

Tips for Reducing Speed Safely

  1. Follow Speed Limits: Always adhere to posted speed limits, but remember these are meant for ideal conditions. In severe weather, driving below the speed limit is often necessary.

  2. Smooth Deceleration: Gradually reduce your speed by easing off the accelerator and applying gentle, steady pressure to the brakes. Avoid sudden braking, which can lead to skidding.

  3. Increased Following Distance: Maintain a greater distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. This gives you more time to react and stop if needed.

2. Avoid Hydroplaning


Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water builds up between your vehicle's tires and the road surface, causing a loss of traction and control. It is a common risk during heavy rain or on wet roads. 

Here's how to avoid hydroplaning and stay safe:

  1. Proper Tire Maintenance: Ensure your tires are in good condition with adequate tread depth. Worn-out tires are more prone to hydroplaning because they cannot effectively channel water away from the tire surface.

  2. Reduce Speed on Wet Roads: Driving at high speeds increases the risk of hydroplaning. Lowering your speed allows your tires to maintain better contact with the road, reducing the chance of losing traction.

  3. Avoid Sudden Movements: Abrupt steering, acceleration, or braking can cause your vehicle to lose traction on wet surfaces. Smooth and gradual inputs help maintain control and prevent hydroplaning.

  4. Stay in the Tracks: When following other vehicles, drive in the tracks left by the car ahead. The previous vehicle's tires have displaced some water, which can help improve traction for your vehicle.

  5. Avoid Standing Water: Puddles and standing water increase the likelihood of hydroplaning. Steer clear of large areas of water on the road whenever possible.

What to Do if You Hydroplane

  1. Stay Calm: Panicking can make the situation worse. Keep a cool head and focus on regaining control.

  2. Ease Off the Accelerator: Gradually lift your foot off the gas pedal to reduce speed.

  3. Avoid Braking: Sudden braking can cause further loss of control. If you need to slow down, do so gently and progressively.

  4. Steer Straight: Keep the steering wheel straight and avoid sudden turns. If you need to steer, do so gently and gradually.

Understanding and implementing these strategies for reducing speed and avoiding hydroplaning can significantly enhance your safety while driving in severe weather conditions. Always prioritize caution and adjust your driving habits to match the weather and road conditions to ensure a safe journey.

3. Use Headlights

Using your headlights in severe weather is essential for visibility and safety. They help you see the road ahead and make your vehicle visible to other drivers.

  1. Visibility Improvement: In conditions like heavy rain, fog, snow, or sleet, natural light is often insufficient. Headlights enhance your ability to see the road, obstacles, and other vehicles.

  2. Increased Visibility to Others: Headlights make your vehicle more visible to other drivers, reducing the risk of collisions. This is particularly important in low-visibility conditions where other drivers might struggle to see your car.

  3. Automatic Headlights: If your vehicle is equipped with automatic headlights, ensure they are set to activate in low-light conditions. However, be prepared to manually turn them on if necessary, as automatic systems might only sometimes detect changing conditions promptly.

Tips for Using Headlights

  1. Low Beams: Use low-beam headlights in foggy or snowy conditions to reduce glare and improve visibility. High beams can reflect off particles in the air and reduce visibility.

  2. Clean Headlights: Ensure your headlights are clean and free of dirt or snow. Dirty headlights can significantly reduce their effectiveness.

4. Use Fog Lights and Low Beams


In severe weather conditions like fog or heavy snowfall, using fog lights and low beams is crucial for maintaining visibility and safety.

  1. Fog Lights: Fog lights are designed to cut through fog and improve visibility close to the ground. They are positioned lower on the vehicle to minimize glare and enhance your road view.

  2. Low Beams: Low beams should be used instead of high beams in foggy conditions. High beams can reflect off fog particles, creating a white wall effect that reduces visibility.

  3. Combining Lights: For optimal visibility, use fog lights and low beams. This setup provides the best illumination without causing excessive glare.

Tips for Using Fog Lights and Low Beams

  1. Manual Activation: Know how to manually activate your fog lights, as they may not turn on automatically in all vehicles.

  2. Proper Adjustment: Ensure your fog lights and low beams are correctly adjusted to avoid blinding other drivers and maximize their effectiveness.

5. Use Road Markers as a Guide

When visibility is severely reduced, using road markers as a guide can help you stay on the correct path and avoid accidents.

  1. Lane Markers: Follow lane markers to ensure you stay within your lane. In heavy rain or fog, these markers provide a visual reference crucial for maintaining your position on the road.

  2. Reflective Markers: Many roads have reflective markers designed to be more visible in adverse weather conditions. These can be particularly helpful for driving at night or in low-visibility situations.

  3. Edge Lines: Use the road's edge lines to help you gauge your position on the road, especially if the center lines are challenging to see.

Tips for Using Road Markers

  1. Stay Focused: Keep your eyes on the road and stay focused on the markers, especially when visibility is poor.

  2. Maintain Safe Distance: Maintain a safe distance from the edge to avoid veering off the road.

6. Training and Education

Proper defensive driving training and education are essential for driving safely in severe weather. Understanding how to handle adverse conditions can make a significant difference in preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of all road users.

  1. Driver Education Programs: Participating in driver education programs focusing on severe weather driving techniques can provide the skills and knowledge needed to navigate challenging conditions. These programs often include defensive driving techniques where drivers can experience controlled skids, practice braking techniques, and learn how to regain vehicle control on slippery surfaces.

  2. Online Resources and Tutorials: Numerous online and video tutorials offer examples and benefits of defensive driving techniques in severe weather. These resources can be a convenient way to refresh your knowledge and stay updated on the latest safety techniques.

  3. Simulated Training: Some advanced driver education programs offer simulated driving experiences. These simulations can replicate various weather conditions, allowing drivers to practice their responses to hydroplaning, fog, and black ice without the risks.

  4. Employer-Sponsored Training: Companies with fleets of vehicles often provide specialized training for their drivers. If your job requires you to drive in all weather conditions, take advantage of any training programs your employer offers. These programs are designed to help you manage risks and maintain safety while on the job.

  5. First-Hand Experience: While formal training is valuable, nothing replaces first-hand experience. When it's safe, practice driving in different weather conditions; for example, find a quiet parking lot to practice handling your vehicle in the snow or rain.

7. Understand the Risk Posed by Trucks and Buses


Understanding the specific risks trucks and buses pose during severe weather is crucial for all drivers. These larger vehicles present unique challenges that require special attention and caution.

  1. Increased Stopping Distance: Trucks and buses have significantly longer stopping distances than passenger vehicles, especially in wet or icy conditions. It's essential to avoid cutting in front of these vehicles and to allow them plenty of space to stop safely.

  2. Limited Visibility: Trucks and buses have more prominent blind spots, often called "no-zones." These blind spots are on both sides, directly behind and in front of the vehicle. In severe weather, visibility for truck and bus drivers is further reduced. Avoid lingering in these blind spots and ensure you are visible to the driver.

  3. Susceptibility to High Winds: Trucks and buses are more susceptible to high winds due to their larger surface area. High winds can cause these vehicles to swerve or tip over. Keep a safe distance and be cautious when passing or driving near them during windy conditions.

  4. Wide Turns: Trucks and buses make wider turns than passenger vehicles. In severe weather, these turns can become more hazardous. Be mindful of their turning radius and avoid attempting to pass them while they are turning.

  5. Spray and Splash: During rain or snow, trucks and buses can create significant spray and splash, reducing visibility for other drivers. Maintain a safe distance to minimize the impact of this spray and ensure your windshield wipers are in good working condition.

  6. Driver Fatigue: Long-haul truck drivers and bus operators often drive for extended periods, increasing their risk of fatigue. Severe weather conditions can exacerbate fatigue, making it more difficult for drivers to stay alert and react quickly. Look for the early signs of tired drivers and adjust your driving accordingly.

8. Use Sunshades and Keep Hydrated

Driving in severe weather conditions isn't limited to rain, snow, or fog. Extreme heat is another challenging condition that can impact driver safety. 

Sunshades and proper hydration are crucial to managing the risks associated with hot weather driving.

  1. Use Sunshades: Sunshades can significantly reduce the interior temperature of your vehicle, making it more comfortable and reducing the strain on your air conditioning system. This can prevent the vehicle from overheating and help keep the driver alert. Additionally, sunshades protect your dashboard and other interior components from sun damage, prolonging their lifespan.

  2. Keep Hydrated: Dehydration can impair concentration and reaction times, which is critical for safe driving. In hot weather, your body loses fluids quickly, so drinking plenty of water is essential. Keep a water bottle in your vehicle and take regular sips to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks, as they can contribute to dehydration.

  3. Plan Your Journey: In sweltering conditions, plan your journey to avoid peak heat times, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you must drive during these hours, take frequent breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas to cool down and hydrate.

9. Protect the Windshield

Your windshield is your window to the road, and protecting it is crucial for maintaining visibility and safety in severe weather.

  1. Regular Cleaning: Keep your windshield clean, both inside and out. Dirt, dust, and grime can scatter light and reduce visibility, especially when the sun is low in the sky or when headlights from oncoming traffic hit the windshield.

  2. Use Windshield Protectants: Apply a water-repellent coating to your windshield. These products help water bead up and roll off the glass, improving visibility during rain. They also make it easier to remove ice and frost during winter.

  3. Check Wiper Blades: Ensure your windshield wipers are in good condition. Worn or damaged blades can streak and smear, reducing visibility. Replace your wiper blades regularly, at least once or twice a year, or when you notice they are not performing effectively.

  4. Avoid Cracks and Chips: Address any cracks or chips in your windshield immediately. These can compromise the windshield's structural integrity and worsen with temperature changes. Minor chips can often be repaired, but larger cracks typically require windshield replacement.

10. Understand When to Pull Over and Stop

Knowing when to pull over and stop is crucial for safe driving in severe weather. 

Sometimes, conditions can become too dangerous to continue driving, and recognizing these situations can prevent accidents and save lives.

  1. Assess the Conditions: Continuously monitor the weather and road conditions. If visibility is severely reduced due to heavy rain, fog, snow, or dust storms, it's often safer to pull over. Also, be alert to changing conditions that could rapidly worsen, such as an approaching thunderstorm or an icy road after a sudden temperature drop.

  2. Find a Safe Location: If you decide to pull over, find a safe location away from traffic. Look for rest areas, parking lots, or broad shoulders. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers to your presence. Avoid stopping on narrow shoulders or where your vehicle might be hazardous to other traffic.

  3. Stay in the Vehicle: Once you've pulled over, it's usually safest to stay inside your vehicle with your seatbelt fastened. Severe weather can create dangerous conditions outside, such as lightning, flying debris, or low visibility, making walking along the road unsafe.

  4. Wait for Conditions to Improve: Use the time to monitor weather updates and traffic reports. Severe weather often passes quickly, and waiting for conditions to improve can significantly enhance your safety. Keep your engine running to maintain warmth or cooling, but ensure your exhaust pipe is clear in snowy conditions to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.

  5. Communicate Your Status: If you're on a long journey, inform someone of your situation. Let them know you've pulled over and will resume driving once it's safe. This ensures someone is aware of your location and can assist if necessary.

Using sunshades, keeping hydrated, protecting your windshield, and understanding when to pull over and stop can enhance your safety and preparedness when driving in severe weather. These measures help mitigate the risks and ensure you can handle adverse conditions effectively.

Tips for Driving in Severe Weather - FAQS

How do you accelerate on slippery roads?

Accelerate slowly and gently to maintain traction and prevent skidding. Use light pressure on the gas pedal to avoid sudden movements.

What is the most critical factor for driving safely?

Maintaining full attention and focus on the road is the most critical factor for driving safely.

When traveling in a curve, should a driver do it?

Slow down before entering the curve and gently accelerate to maintain control and stability.

Final Words

Driving in severe weather conditions can be challenging, but with the proper preparation and knowledge, you can significantly enhance your safety on the road. 

Implementing the tips for driving in severe weather can ensure your safety. These effective tips include reducing your speed, avoiding hydroplaning, and using your headlights and fog lights effectively. Thus, you can maintain better control of your vehicle in adverse conditions. 

Training and education play a crucial role in ensuring you understand the unique risks caused by trucks and buses. Knowing when to pull over and stop can be lifesaving during extreme weather events.

Sunshades and staying hydrated are simple yet effective ways to protect yourself and your vehicle. 

Protecting your windshield and ensuring a clear view of the road ahead are equally important. Remember, severe weather demands heightened awareness and caution.

By implementing these tips and continually educating yourself about best practices, you can reduce the risks of severe weather driving.