Did you know that high winds can have a devastating effect on road safety? In fact, over 1.2 million vehicle crashes a year are weather-related, including from driving in high winds.
When learning to drive, it’s common not to experience any type of bad weather. This may be due to the time of year you learned or because your lesson was canceled.
As a result, new drivers can be caught off guard in the event of driving in high winds. They often don’t know what to do, and this causes them to panic.
This kind of situation is hazardous, not only for them but for other road users. It increases the chance of a crash and can have a long-term effect on their confidence.
So, it’s important to know what to do whilst driving in windy conditions. If you have the knowledge and expertise required, then you can remain calm and stay safe.
In this article, we’ll share eight tips for driving in windy conditions. We’ll advise on what to do and how to keep you and your passengers safe.
Read on for more information.
1. Only Drive in High Winds if it’s Urgent
It’s common sense to realize that the best way to stay safe in windy weather is not to drive at all.
If there are high winds in your area, which are classed at around 40mph or more, don’t travel. By doing this, you won’t put yourself or others in harm’s way.
If you’re unsure about traveling, then check local weather and news reports. Often, when there is bad weather, they advise you not to travel or only travel in an emergency.
Emergency travel is usually classed as seeking medical help or escaping a dangerous situation. It shouldn’t be to go to a grocery store, cinema, or other social events.
You should also remember that if you do need emergency help, you’re advised to call 911 immediately.
2. Plan Your Journey In Advance
If you are looking to go on a long journey out of town, then it’s recommended to plan your journey in advance. This is useful if you are looking to travel across states, especially those within the tornado alley.
The tornado alley usually includes states such as:
- South Dakota
These are where high winds are common, and tornados regularly occur. So if you are planning on driving through any of these states, then you should be prepared.
First, you should check all state and local weather conditions. You can do this by calling 511, although it may vary between provinces.
Plus, there are plenty of weather apps you can download that keep you up to date. If there is a severe weather warning, they can alert you and guide you.
Secondly, prepare for driving in windy weather and storms. It’s advisable to plan for any type of scenario, giving you a higher chance of staying safe.
To do this, you should:
- Take a spare tire and puncture repair kit
- Take a mobile phone car charger
- Pack warm clothing, including blankets
- Have a first aid kit
- Bring a torch with extra batteries
It’s easy to become stranded in stormy conditions, but by following this advice, you’ll be prepared for any situation.
3. Slow Down
When we’re in dangerous situations, sometimes our natural reaction is to escape quickly.
When driving in a windstorm, some people try to get to their destination faster. But, this puts them in more danger and at a higher risk of crashing.
Gusts of winds surround the car and affect the handling and braking.
They also come in short and unpredictable bursts, and as a result, they catch people off guard. If this happens to you whilst driving at high speed, you’ll have less time to react.
To help prevent this from happening, you should slow down. This way, you’ll have more control of the car and be able to react more efficiently.
4. Adapt According to Your Vehicle
The best types of vehicles to drive in windy conditions are small sports coupes. This is because they are more aerodynamic, meaning the wind can easily travel over them.
Trucks and buses are the worst as they are blown around more easily by side winds. In fact, it’s almost like being hit from the side by another vehicle.
Plus, it’s common for trucks to topple over in the most severe wind conditions, so we recommend parking somewhere safe if you are driving one. You can then wait until the conditions have eased before continuing.
This is also similar for motorcyclists.
It can take far less wind to affect the bike’s handling and knock you off balance. If you were to crash, you have very little protection and could be hit by another vehicle.
So, you should avoid traveling at all in windy conditions.
Finally, if you are driving a 4×4 or saloon, be cautious. The car can still topple over or be knocked off the road. So, you should slow down and park somewhere safe.
5. Anticipate Winds
If you are about to go from a protected area, like a tunnel, and into an open space, be prepared for sudden gusts. They can catch you off guard and easily cause a crash.
So before approaching, slow down significantly.
By doing this, you can stay in control of your vehicle and stay safe. You’ll also help protect other drivers behind you as they’ll follow your lead.
6. Be Cautious When Overtaking
Ideally, you want to avoid overtaking other vehicles, but sometimes this is unavoidable.
So, when overtaking trucks, buses, motorbikes, and even cyclists, take the following precautions.
First, give them a wide birth. We’ve already established that trucks, buses, and motorbikes are most at risk from high winds. If a bus or truck was to be blown over onto your vehicle, it could be fatal.
So when overtaking, stay as far away from them as possible. If the worst did happen, your vehicle would have more chance of not being hit.
In terms of motorcyclists and pushbike users, just do the same. If they come off, they could be thrown into your vehicle’s path. If you were to hit them, it could have devastating consequences.
Finally, as you are just about to overtake the large vehicles, anticipate side winds. You’ll no longer have the protection of the bus or truck so approach it as you would exiting a tunnel.
7. Be Aware of Falling Debris
If you are driving in a forest or the countryside, you need to constantly be on the lookout for falling trees.
It’s common for branches and entire trees to be blown down, and they can cause severe accidents. In fact, people have been killed by fallen trees.
But, they don’t have to hit you directly to be dangerous.
They can fall into the road and cause a blockage. This is especially dangerous at night or in foggy conditions because they are hard to notice.
So, if you hit one at high speed, you’re likely to suffer severe injuries.
To protect yourself, slow down and ensure your lights are on. If a tree or branch is overhanging, then try to avoid traveling underneath it.
Finally, also look out for falling roof tiles and electricity poles. Damage to these is common during storms; always stay alert.
8. Hold the Steering Wheel Correctly
Most of us are guilty of driving with one hand on the steering wheel sometimes, but you should never do this when driving in a heavy storm.
Instead, you should imagine the steering wheel is a clock face and place your hands at 2 and 10.
This gives you full control of the vehicle and allows you to react in the event of a sudden gust of wind.
9. Be Careful When You Park
If you need to park somewhere (and we recommend you do during heavy winds), you should park somewhere safe.
Do not park in the following places:
- Near cliff edges
- Near ditches
- Underneath trees or large poles
You should also be careful when you exit your vehicle, as winds can come in any direction. They may cause you to fall or slam the door into you.
An Ultimate Guide for Driving in High Winds
We hope this guide has been informative to you.
As you can see, there are many steps you should take to keep yourself safe whilst driving in high winds. Remember to take it slow and stay alert. But the best thing to always do is avoid traveling if necessary.
Finally, if you would like to become a safer driver, check out our defensive driving school courses. We can help build up your experience and knowledge so you can face any scenario with confidence.
Remember, we also have a wide range of online courses available, that can fit your schedule.