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Double Weather Whammy: Extreme Heat and Strong Storms Can Mean Dangerous Driving Conditions
AAA Mid-Atlantic has driving tips to help motorists stay safe
WILMINGTON, DE (July 13, 2017) – As the fourth heat wave of the season blankets the region, AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging commuters to plan ahead, use caution and pack some patience while traveling on the roads. In addition to oppressive heat and humidity, local drivers can expect scattered showers and strong storms today and tomorrow.
Driving in the Heat
“Extreme temperatures pose a risk to motorists and their vehicles, especially if cars aren’t ready for the extreme heat,” says Ken Grant, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Many summertime breakdowns could be prevented with proper maintenance. That’s why it is critical to ensure your vehicle is properly prepared to meet the summer heat.”
Before hitting the road:
- Heat kills batteries. Have your battery checked to make sure it can withstand the heat.
- Keep your tires at normal pressure. Soft tires generate heat, which can lead to a blowout.
- Inspect your brakes, shocks, filters, and pump.
- Check all fluids including the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed. If the engine is cool, check the level in the radiator as well. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot, you can be seriously scalded.
- Have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is typically necessary every two to five years.
Once on the road:
- Keep an eye on your gas, oil and engine temperature gauges.
- In heavy traffic during a heat wave, don’t tailgate the car ahead. It can stress a car’s cooling system when it sucks in hot exhaust fumes.
- Should you overheat, pull off the road, shut the engine off immediately and allow the vehicle to cool.
Driving in the Rain/During a Thunderstorm:
“Thunderstorms are a severe summer crash risk, yet motorists tend to view these storms as more of an inconvenience than a hazard,” said Grant. “As a result, drivers tend to be less cautious than they should be. Storms can cause poor visibility, intense lightening, high winds and flash flooding. The most important steps to take when driving in wet weather are to buckle up, slow down, and keep a safe distance from the car in front of you.”
- Check your wipers – Before leaving the house, make sure your windshield wipers are working properly.
- Slow down - Drivers are more likely to lose control of the vehicle when roads are wet.
- Increase following distance – This is even more important when driving near vans, recreational vehicles and cars pulling trailers that may be adversely affected by the wind.
- Brake early - Breaking early, but not hard, will allow the time needed to slow the car.
- Six inches - As little as six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car and potentially stall your engine.
- Seek higher ground - If your vehicle stalls or is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately.
- Never drive through standing water – TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN – Standing water can be deceiving and motorists should avoid it. No matter how shallow it may appear, water may be hiding downed power lines, may be deeper than it appears, or have significant force from flooding, etc.
- Watch for hydroplaning - No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles. Even if brakes work under normal conditions that doesn’t mean they will react the same on slippery roads where tires roll with less traction.
- Use your defroster - Keep the air inside your car dry and prevent windows from fogging by using your defroster along with your air conditioner.
- Take the nearest exit - If conditions worsen to the point where there is any doubt about your safety, take the nearest exit. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge. If your visibility is compromised, other drivers may be struggling too.
- Slowing down in the rain also minimizes car repairs. Many motorists try to move fast through drivable puddles, but it’s actually better for your car if you go slowly. Driving fast can force the water to splash up into your car’s undercarriage and cause damage. Your vehicle could suffer electrical problems and other issues caused by water damage - and many of the repairs involve SUV’s because people mistakenly think they are safe to drive through standing water.
- Stay alert – Get rid of distractions, such as music and cell phones, so you can concentrate on driving.