Driving: Road and Vehicles

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No matter how good of a driver you may be, there are several factors that are out of your control. Knowing how to identify and control your vehicle in different environments is key to your safety and your passengers.

Driving in the Rain

Losing control of your car on wet pavement is a frightening experience. Unfortunately, it can happen unless you take preventive measures.
You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.

If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. This procedure, known as "steering into the skid," will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you "steer into the skid."

While skids on wet pavement may be frightening, hydroplaning is completely nerve-wracking. Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car's weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires and the road. At this point, your car can be completely out of contact with the road, and you are in danger of skidding or drifting out of your lane, or even off the road.

To avoid hydroplaning, keep your tires properly inflated, maintain good tread on your tires and replace them when necessary, slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.

If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally; the car's computer will mimic a pumping action, when necessary.

You can improve your vehicles stopping power by reducing speed and allowing at least four seconds' stopping distance between you and the car ahead. To keep your brake linings from getting wet while driving through puddles, put your left foot lightly on the brake pedal. Once you've cleared the puddle, pump the break pedal a few times.

Also, rain can create potholes and sometimes, even create sinkholes. Sinkholes are common where the rock below the land surface is limestone, carbonate rock, salt beds, or rocks that can naturally be dissolved by ground water circulating through them. As the rock dissolves, spaces and caverns develop underground. Sinkholes are dramatic because the land usually stays intact for a while until the underground spaces just get too big. If there is not enough support for the land above the underground spaces, then a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur. To state the obvious, driving into a sinkhole would not be a pleasant experience!

Driving in the Snow

Driving in snow or on ice requires substantially longer stopping distances. Additionally, there is a need to drive slower, take extra precautions on turns, and leave more room between other vehicles and curbs. There is a requirement for greater anticipation and awareness of other vehicles on the road. Removal of any snow build-up on the vehicle can help minimize the dangers of driving in snow. When driving in the snow, a driver should use headlights, windshield wipers and headlamps for maximum visibility.

Nobody likes driving in the snow and dealing with the delays that result. If you must travel in the snow, taking these steps should increase your chances of getting home again safely.
There's nothing more beautiful than a blanket of new-falling snow. Unless, of course, you're driving in it. Winter snow and ice pose special problems...
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