In Northeast Ohio, we make small talk over weather because it changes like a playlist on shuffle. We know what we’re going to get, but we don’t know when. This inconsistency isn’t a surprise, but actually expected. Usually, the tired conversation that starts with “Wow, how about this weather” is followed by the exasperated claim “And it seems like everyone forgets how to drive when it starts raining and snowing.” Well, it’s nearly December, so we’re expecting more weather like that. Here at Avatar, we call it adverse conditions. And, you might be surprised to find out that you could learn a thing or two from people who you think are unnecessarily slowing down traffic.

What is “Adverse Weather”

The term ‘adverse conditions’ refers to any weather event that increases your risk of having a traffic accident. Rain, snow, fog, and ice are all examples of conditions that make it more dangerous to drive. Therefore, you have to change your tactics. Specifically, it’s important to adjust your speed and following distance.

When it’s raining or snowing, the risk of skidding becomes greater. That’s because your traction is reduced. You might have known that already, and you might even know what you need to do to get out of a skid: take your foot off of the accelerator, gradually slow down, and don’t try to sharply turn back on course. However, this advice usually takes front seat to how to avoid this situation in the first place. The first thing to consider is speed.

Driving in the Rain and Snow

When you’re driving in the rain, it’s safest to slow down by 25%. So, if you were going 60 MPH, our advice is to go 45. It gets even worse when there’s snow involved. Snow takes away well over half of the traction you normally have, so you need to reduce your speed by 50%. If there’s ice or sleet on the road, you need to go even slower.

Following Distance

The second tactic is increasing your following distance. This goes hand-in-hand with speed. When you’re driving a car, SUV, or pick-up truck in normal conditions, a 3 second following distance is safe. However, the worse the weather is, the more room you have to leave yourself. It’ll take you longer to stop so you need to leave yourself more room to make-up for your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Reference the chart below for minimum safe following distance in various weather conditions.

CONDITIONS FOLLOWING DIST.
Normal 3 Seconds
Rain 4 Seconds
Snow 5 Seconds
Sleet/Ice 6 Seconds

When the rain and snow inevitably begin falling in the next couple of weeks, slow down and increase the space between you and the driver in front of you. Sound familiar? That’s probably what the drivers you’ve been complaining about every winter have been doing. Maybe they’re frustrating, but the driver you’re zooming by when it’s pouring rain is a lot less likely to have an accident than you are. Always remember: weather doesn’t cause accidents, people and their unsafe behaviors do.