How to Drive Safely in High Winds
The times to be cautious during high or gusting wind are when you’re driving a pickup, SUV, RV, van or bus; you’re towing or hauling; or you’re traveling on a multilane road with lots of large vehicles. The taller and broader the vehicle, the more surface area for wind to shove against. A big gust can force a truck or trailer suddenly into another lane or cause a rollover.
Also, if you have new tires or tall-tread-block tires like MTs, be aware that side-to-side movement from strong crosswinds may feel exaggerated.
To drive safely in high winds:
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated for best traction.
- Leave more time and slow down.
- If blowing dust or driving rain are factors, turn on your headlights to improve visibility.
- Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
- Compensate by steering slightly against a consistent side wind.
- Don’t overcorrect if you get blown off course by a short gust.
- Make steering corrections when driving from areas protected from wind to open areas. Be extra vigilant on bridges, overpasses and open straightaways where wind can spike.
- Be prepared for unpredictable gusts when driving through underpasses, road cuts between hills and tunnels.
- Watch for debris in the road.
- Give other high-profile vehicles, like semis, a lot of room.
- Pull over someplace safe if conditions become dangerous.
- Once you’re at your destination, park away from trees and power lines.
Tire Performance in Strong Wind
High wind causes a vehicle to lift a bit, which reduces the necessary friction between your tires and the pavement. A really large surface, like the side of a fifth wheel, can act like a sail on a sailboat. A wind gust can suddenly pick up such a trailer and force it into another lane or off the road, especially if the blacktop is wet, which also reduces traction.
This effect is exaggerated when tires aren’t fully inflated or when you’re carrying a load. There’s more roll in the tire sidewall and your handling won’t be as responsive.
Be extra vigilant when you have new tires or tires with high lug-to-tread ratio and tall tread blocks, like all-terrain or mud tires. Such tires have more squirm in wind gusts, much like a skyscraper will sway more in high wind than a short building.
Driving in High Winds
If you’re towing a trailer or fifth wheel, driving a lifted truck or RV or hauling a heavy load, consider waiting out the conditions. Before you leave, check your state’s travel advisories. Travel may be not recommended or even be prohibited depending on vehicle type.
The National Weather Service also puts out alerts, including wind advisories. Weather warnings are available by county and zone (scroll down) and updated every few minutes.
The most important thing to remember is to slow down. You’ll have more time to react if you get blown sideways or another driver does.
Get More Driving Tips
Do You Know How to Drive If Your Tire Goes Flat?
When a tire goes flat or completely comes apart while you’re driving at highway speed, you can catch even the most experienced driver off guard.
Here’s what to do if it happens to you, along with a checklist for preventing flats.
How Can You Prevent Flat Tires?
Avoid tire failure by following these easy tips.
- Check tire pressure monthly, including the spare.
- Slow down if you have to drive over a pothole or other object in the road.
- Don’t run over curbs or other foreign objects in the roadway, and try not to hit or rub the curb when parking.
- Inspect tires for uneven wear patterns on the tread, cracks, foreign objects, or other signs of wear or trauma.
- Remove any stones, bits of glass or other foreign objects wedged in the tread.
- Make sure your tire valves have caps.
- When carrying heavy loads, you should be extra careful about proper tire pressure. Overloading and low tire pressure can cause a tire to overheat, leading to tire failure.
Not to Worry: 27 Tips for Safest Night Driving
Driving at night can be a travel delight. Your favorite playlist, the open road, a feeling of adventure — what could be better?
But night driving brings into play some serious safety issues. The overall nighttime crash rate is about one-and-a-half times the daytime rate. Night crashes are statistically more severe, with the fatality rate three to four times that of daylight crashes.
The main problem is lower visibility. Visual cues like pavement markings and road signs are harder to see. Your depth perception, ability to make out colors and peripheral vision are all worse at night. Older drivers can be especially challenged: A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as the average 30-year-old.
Another safety issue is fatigue. Our bodies are programmed to get sleepy when it’s dark. If you are a parent taking advantage of young kids’ sleep time to log travel miles, you may be fighting exhaustion.
Plus, it takes a lot more concentration to drive at night. Here are some tips for getting to your destination safely during your night travels.
Before Your Night Travel
- Have the right tires mounted for the time of year, and make sure they’re properly inflated.
- Avoid having to change a flat after dark by checking your tires for wear. Uneven or too much tread wear makes tire failure more likely.
- Adjust your headlight beams. The aim can get a bit off over time, when the assembly loosens or your vehicle suspension sags. Follow the instructions in your vehicle owner’s manual or in this video.
- Make sure your headlights are clean. If they look foggy or hazy, you can polish them in a few minutes with some toothpaste and car wax to get a lot more light on the road.
- Clean your windshield. Glass with smudges or streaks on the inside or dirt on the outside make it even harder to see when it’s dark. You’ll also get tired quicker from straining to see.
- Dirty mirrors can increase glare. Clean your side mirrors and adjust them slightly downward so you can keep glare from other cars’ headlights out of your eyes.
- Refer to our summer road trip checklist or winter road trip checklist to make sure everything else on your vehicle is ready.
While You’re Underway
- Turn your headlights on an hour before the sun goes down and keep them on an hour after dawn. This improves your visibility to other drivers when the sun is low in the sky.
- Stay within the speed limit. You can’t see as far at night. With your low beams on, you can only see a maximum of about 250 feet in front of you on unlit roads. You’ll need that much or more to come to a stop, depending on your speed and the road conditions.
- Keep alert by frequently checking all your mirrors. Staring straight ahead for long periods will strain your eyes and lower your attention level.
- Don’t fight drooping eyelids or wait until you’re nodding off to stop. Do something to get your blood flowing and increase your attention, like doing a few stretches or taking a short walk. Get yourself a cup of coffee, or even take a short nap.
- Any time you need to stop, pull as far over onto the shoulder as you safely can and turn on your hazard lights.
- Clean your windshield whenever you make a pit stop or fill up your gas tank. Extra wiper fluid and a clean towel or some rags are good items to have in a road trip safety kit. Create one for summer and one for winter.
- Increase your following distance. Know that feeling when someone is tailgating you with their headlights shining into your rear-view mirror? It’s nerve-racking and the glare in your eyes can make it even harder to see potential problems ahead or by the roadside. Give yourself and others enough space to react.
- Watch roadsides for the reflections of animals’ eyes. Slow way down if you spot them. If you see one deer, there are likely others, so go slowly to be sure you’re past them all.
- Turn off interior lights. They can create glare that makes it harder to see the road.
- Dim your dashboard lights.
- Keep your car clear of cigarette smoke. It reduces vision.
- Don’t look directly into oncoming headlights. If light from a car coming the other way is blinding or creates glare, watch the white fog line on the right side of the road. You’ll still be able to see the oncoming traffic through peripheral vision while staying in your lane.
- Use high beams when there aren’t oncoming cars and it's right for the road conditions (no fog or heavy rain). They let you see about twice as far ahead as your low beams (350 to 500 feet) and expand your field of vision to the road shoulders. You must turn them to back to low at least 500 feet from an approaching vehicle and when you're within 200 to 300 feet of the vehicle you’re following.
- Use your fog lights for better visibility if it’s truly foggy, but don’t if it’s not. Using them when it’s clear out is unsafe for other drivers and may be a traffic violation.
- Only use any auxiliary lights you’ve mounted on your vehicle if they’re approved for road use. They can blind other drivers and make it hard for your eyes to adjust when you switch down to regular beams.
- If your rearview mirror has a night setting, use it.
- When you see signs for construction zones, be prepared for redirected traffic lanes, equipment and rough roads.
- Be on the lookout for people on foot or bike. Not everyone knows to wear reflective gear.
- Put down your cellphone. It’s a dangerous distraction, day or night, and it’s a traffic violation in many states to use your cell while driving.
- Above all, be a defensive driver during weekend nights, when there are more drunk drivers on the road.
Night driving can be a great way to beat the traffic and enjoy a little peace and quiet. Just be prepared and drive smart.
Get a free pre-trip safety check at any Les Schwab Tires.