Tips for Driving In Bad Weather in Texas

If you live in Texas, you know that the weather is unpredictable. It can be sunny and warm one day and freezing and snowing the next. As a result, driving in bad weather is common for many Texans – and unfortunately, so are accidents.

According to the Texas Department of Insurance, a motor vehicle crash occurs roughly every 56 seconds in Texas – 10 percent of which are caused by poor weather conditions.

Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group protects Texans who are hurt in vehicle accidents. While we are always ready to help if you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, we would much rather prevent you from getting hurt in the first place. Here are some tips for driving in bad weather in Texas – and some advice on what to do if things go wrong.

Driving in Snow

Driving in Snow

Snowy roads in Texas can be particularly challenging, as drivers may not be experienced in handling such conditions, and the road infrastructure may not be designed for winter weather. In these instances, it’s important to use extreme caution. Here are some important tips:

  1. Drive Slowly: Reduce your speed significantly to account for the decreased traction on snowy roads.
  2. Increase Following Distance: Leave more space than usual between your vehicle and the one in front to provide ample stopping distance.
  3. Use Gentle Maneuvers: Avoid sudden steering, braking, or accelerating, which can lead to skids.
  4. Equip Your Vehicle: Use winter tires if possible, and ensure your car is equipped with necessary winter gear like scrapers, snow brushes, and possibly chains.
  5. Use Lower Gears: In manual transmission vehicles, using lower gears can help maintain traction, especially on hills.
  6. Keep Headlights On: Even during the day, headlights can increase your visibility to other drivers.
  7. Stay Informed: Before you travel, check weather reports and road conditions and plan your route accordingly.
  8. Avoid Unnecessary Travel: If conditions are particularly bad, consider postponing your trip.
  9. Be Prepared for Emergencies: Carry an emergency kit with blankets, water, food, a flashlight, and a first-aid kit in your vehicle.
  10. Stay Calm: If you start to skid, remain calm, and gently steer in the direction you want to go. Avoid overcorrecting or panic braking.

These precautions can help navigate snowy roads more safely, especially in areas like Texas, where such conditions are not a regular occurrence.

Driving on Ice

Driving on ice, including the often invisible black ice, presents unique challenges, especially in Texas where drivers may not be accustomed to such conditions. Here are some tips for safely navigating icy roads:

Understanding Black Ice: Black ice is a thin coat of highly transparent ice, making it nearly invisible and thus particularly dangerous. It tends to form on shaded areas of the road, bridges, and overpasses.

  1. Drive Slowly and Steadily: Reduce your speed significantly. Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to slip on ice. Smooth, slow acceleration, turning, and braking are key.
  2. Increase Following Distance: Leave a generous gap between your vehicle and the one ahead. Stopping distances can be many times longer on ice compared to dry roads.
  3. Avoid Sudden Braking: If you must slow down, do so gently. Sudden braking can cause your vehicle to slide or skid.
  4. Steer Into a Skid: If your car starts to skid, calmly steer in the direction you want to go. Avoid overcorrecting or making sharp turns.
  5. Use Lower Gears on Hills: Lower gears can provide better control when going up or down hills.
  6. Avoid Hills or Steep Roads: If possible, plan a route that avoids steep inclines where ice can make it difficult to control your vehicle.
  7. Stay Alert for Ice Patches: Even if the road looks clear, be wary of patches of ice, particularly early in the morning or in shaded areas.
  8. Equip Your Car Properly: Use winter tires if possible and ensure that your vehicle is prepared for winter conditions with necessary tools and emergency supplies.
  9. Know Your Brakes: Whether you have antilock brakes (ABS) or non-ABS, it’s important to know how they respond on ice. For ABS, press down firmly on the pedal. For non-ABS, gently pump the brakes.
  10. Stay Home If Possible: The best way to avoid an accident on icy roads is to stay off them. If the weather is bad, try to stay home or use public transportation.
  11. Emergency Kit: Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, including blankets, water, food, a flashlight, and a first-aid kit.

Remember, ice on the road can be unpredictable, and even with precautions, there is still a risk. The key is to drive slowly, stay alert, and be prepared for changing conditions.

Driving in High Winds

Driving in High Winds

Driving in high wind conditions in Texas can be particularly intense and requires special attention and caution. Here are some tips for safely navigating high-wind situations:

  1. Grip the Steering Wheel Firmly: High winds can cause sudden jerks or shifts in your vehicle’s direction. Hold the steering wheel firmly to maintain control.
  2. Reduce Speed: High speeds make it more difficult to control your vehicle in windy conditions. Slowing down can help you manage the effects of gusts more effectively.
  3. Be Cautious with Large Vehicles: Be particularly careful when driving near large, or high-profile, vehicles, like trucks and buses, as they are more susceptible to strong winds and might veer into your lane unexpectedly. Give them plenty of space and be prepared to react accordingly.
  4. Maintain a Safe Distance: Keep a safe distance from other vehicles, especially large ones, to give yourself ample time to react to sudden movements caused by wind gusts.
  5. Anticipate Gusts: Be aware of areas where wind gusts are more likely, such as open spaces, highway overpasses, and tunnels.
  6. Avoid Towing or Roof-Top Cargo: If possible, avoid towing trailers and carrying roof-top cargo, as these can act like sails and make your vehicle more difficult to control in high winds.
  7. Watch for Debris: Strong winds can blow debris onto the road. Stay alert and be prepared to react safely.
  8. Use Headlights: Turn on your headlights to increase your visibility to other drivers, especially if the windy weather is accompanied by rain or dust.
  9. Park Safely: If you need to stop, park your vehicle in a safe area away from trees, power lines, and other hazards that could fall due to high winds.
  10. Stay Informed: Before setting out, check weather forecasts and traffic reports to be aware of the conditions you’ll face on the road.
  11. Consider Postponing Your Trip: If wind conditions are severe, consider postponing your trip until the weather improves.

Staying alert and maintaining control of your vehicle during high winds is key to avoiding accidents and ensuring a safe journey.

Driving in Rain

Driving in the Rain in Texas

Rainy conditions often result in reduced visibility and slippery roads, which means you should be extra cautious. Begin by slowing down and maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles. This will help you avoid hydroplaning and give you more time to react to any sudden changes in traffic or road conditions.

If you’re driving in a downpour, take the following precautions:

  1. Turn on Your Headlights: Make sure your headlights are on, even during daylight hours, to improve your visibility to other drivers.
  2. Use Windshield Wipers and Defrosters: Turn on your windshield wipers to maintain a clear view through the windshield. Use the defroster to prevent fogging on the inside of the windows.
  3. Avoid Cruise Control: Do not use cruise control in wet conditions. It’s important to have full control of your vehicle’s speed to react to changing road conditions.
  4. Be Cautious of Puddles and Standing Water: Drive cautiously through puddles, as they can be deeper than they appear, leading to hydroplaning or loss of control.
  5. Stay in the Middle Lane: If possible, drive in the middle lane as water tends to accumulate in the outer lanes, making them more prone to flooding.
  6. Reduce Distractions: Minimize distractions inside your vehicle, such as adjusting the radio or using your phone. Focus your attention on the road.
  7. Stay Calm: If you start to hydroplane (losing traction due to water buildup), stay calm, and gently ease off the gas pedal without sudden braking. Steer in the direction you want to go until you regain control.
  8. Plan Ahead: If heavy rain is in the forecast, consider delaying your trip or finding alternative routes. Staying off the road during severe storms is the safest option.
  9. Maintain Your Vehicle: Ensure your tires have adequate tread and are properly inflated, as this can significantly impact your vehicle’s traction on wet roads.
  10. Pull Over and Wait: Remember, safety should always come first when navigating rainy conditions. If you are in a heavy downpour, consider pulling over to the side of the road and waiting for the rain to pass. It’s better to lose a few minutes of travel time than to risk an accident due to poor visibility.
  11. Turn Around if a Road is Flooded: Never attempt to drive through flooded roads, as it can cause your car to stall or even be swept away by rapidly rising water.

Driving in Fog

Driving in Fog

Foggy weather can create dangerous driving conditions, drastically reducing visibility and making it difficult to see other vehicles and potential obstacles on the road. To ensure your safety during foggy conditions, use your low beams and fog lights, as high beams can further impair visibility by reflecting off the fog and creating a glare.

Also, to safely navigate through fog, it is important to:

  1. Reduce Speed: Slow down to compensate for the reduced visibility and reaction time. This allows more time to see and react to any hazards that suddenly appear.
  2. Increase Following Distance: Keep a greater distance than usual between your vehicle and the one in front. Maintain a following distance of at least five seconds behind the car in front of you. This will give you more time to react if the vehicle ahead suddenly stops or changes direction.
  3. Use Road Markings: Rely more on road markings to guide your driving, as it may be harder to judge distances and lane positions.
  4. Minimize Distractions: Avoid using mobile devices or other distractions. Focus entirely on the road.
  5. Listen for Traffic: Sometimes, you might hear other vehicles before you see them. Keep your window slightly open to listen for traffic and emergency signals.
  6. Avoid Sudden Moves: Make all driving actions gently and gradually, including braking, steering, and accelerating. Sudden moves can lead to skids or collisions.
  7. Use Wipers and Defrosters: Keep your windshield clear with wipers and defrosters to improve visibility.
  8. Plan Ahead: If possible, delay your trip until the fog clears. If you must drive, allow extra time for travel.
  9. Pull Over Safely If Needed: If the fog becomes too dense to continue driving safely, pull over to a safe location, turn off your driving lights, and use your hazard lights to alert other drivers.

 

Driving in Hail

Driving in Hail

Driving in hail can be dangerous, and it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself and your vehicle if you find yourself in a hailstorm in Texas or any other location. Here are some tips for driving in hail:

  1. Pull Over Safely: If possible, find a safe place to pull over, such as a gas station, parking lot, or rest area. Avoid stopping under bridges or overpasses, as this can impede traffic flow and create dangerous situations.
  2. Protect Your Vehicle: If you can’t find shelter, try to shield your vehicle from hail by parking it under a tree, an awning, or any available cover. Use a car cover, blankets, or even floor mats to protect your car’s exterior if you have them on hand.
  3. Stay Inside the Vehicle: Once you’ve pulled over and ensured your vehicle is as protected as possible, stay inside. Hail can cause injury if it shatters your windows or hits you directly. Keep your seatbelt fastened.
  4. Reduce Speed: If you must continue driving due to lack of safe shelter, slow down significantly. Drive at a speed that matches the road conditions, taking into account reduced visibility and slippery roads.
  5. Increase Following Distance: Leave extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This gives you more time to react if road conditions deteriorate or if the driver ahead has to make a sudden stop.
  6. Use Hazard Lights: Turn on your hazard lights to make your vehicle more visible to other drivers and indicate that you are driving cautiously due to the hailstorm.
  7. Avoid Sudden Maneuvers: Make gentle and gradual movements with the steering wheel and brakes. Sudden maneuvers can lead to loss of control on slippery roads.
  8. Stay Informed: Listen to weather reports on the radio or use a weather app to stay informed about the storm’s intensity and duration. This can help you make informed decisions about whether to continue driving or seek additional shelter.
  9. Inspect Your Vehicle Afterwards: After the storm has passed, carefully inspect your vehicle for damage, including dents, cracks, and broken windows. Take photos of any damage for insurance purposes.
  10. Contact Your Insurance Company: If your vehicle sustained hail damage, contact your insurance company to report the damage and initiate the claims process.

Remember that safety should be your top priority when driving in severe weather conditions like hailstorms. If you can avoid driving during a hailstorm by staying put or finding shelter, that is the safest option. If you must drive, take your time, be cautious, and prioritize your safety and the safety of others on the road.

Driving in a Tornado

Driving during a tornado in Texas, an area prone to such severe weather, demands immediate and specific actions to ensure safety. Here are some crucial tips to follow if you find yourself on the road during a tornado:

    Stay Informed: Before setting out, check the weather forecast for tornado warnings in your area. If a tornado warning is issued, it means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
  1. Seek Shelter Immediately: If you’re driving and hear a tornado warning, don’t try to outrun it. Tornadoes can change direction quickly and are unpredictable. Instead, seek sturdy shelter as soon as possible.
  2. Avoid Bridges and Overpasses: Contrary to popular belief, hiding under an overpass or bridge offers no protection from tornadoes and can actually be more dangerous.
  3. Get Low, Stay Low: If you cannot find a building to take shelter in, park your car as safely and quickly as possible, away from trees and other objects that can be blown onto your vehicle. Keep your seatbelt on, duck below the windows, and cover your head with your hands or a blanket.
  4. Leave Your Car If You Can Safely Reach a Sturdier Shelter: If there’s a building nearby, especially one with a basement or an interior room without windows, leave your car and go there instead.
  5. Avoid Areas Prone to Debris: Parking near large objects that can be easily picked up by a tornado (like loose signs or unanchored structures) increases the risk of injury from flying debris.
  6. Do Not Try to Drive Through a Tornado: Visibility can be extremely poor, and debris flying at high speeds can be deadly. Moreover, tornadoes can lift cars off the ground.
  7. Plan Ahead: Know where you can find shelter along your route. This is especially important if you’re driving in areas where tornadoes are common, like Texas.
  8. Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car: This should include items like water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, and a blanket.

Remember, the best course of action is to avoid driving during severe weather conditions, especially when there’s a tornado warning. If caught on the road, prioritize finding safe shelter immediately.

Driving on Flooded Roads

Flooded roads can pose significant risks for drivers, as rapidly rising water can stall engines or sweep vehicles away. That’s why you should never attempt to drive through flooded roads. It’s best to turn around and find an alternate route.

  1. Avoid Driving Through Floodwaters: As a general rule, avoid driving through flooded areas. It’s difficult to determine the depth of the water or the condition of the road underneath. Just six inches of moving water can knock a person down, and one foot of moving water can sweep a vehicle away.
  2. Follow Official Warnings: Heed any road closure signs and follow local warnings about flooded roads. Authorities close roads for safety, and ignoring these warnings can be extremely dangerous.
  3. Assess Water Depth: If you encounter water on the road and it seems shallow enough to cross, gauge its depth first. You can do this by watching other vehicles navigate the stretch or by looking for fixed points like curbs or road markings.
  4. Drive Slowly and Steadily: If you must go through water, drive slowly and steadily to prevent creating a bow wave. Keep the engine revs up by engaging a lower gear, and avoid stopping in the water.
  5. Check Brakes After Crossing Water: Once you’re out of the water, check your brakes. Wet brakes may be less effective until they dry out.
  6. Watch for Floating Debris and Eroded Roads: Floodwaters can carry debris and erode roads underneath, which can cause vehicles to get trapped or damaged.
  7. Avoid Driving at Night: It’s harder to recognize flood hazards in the dark. If possible, avoid driving through flooded areas at night.
  8. Stay in the Middle of the Road: Water tends to be shallower in the middle of the road. Try to stay on the crown of the road, if possible.
  9. Watch for Downed Power Lines and Electrical Wires: Be vigilant for downed power lines or electrical wires, which can present a serious hazard in flooded conditions.
  10. Be Prepared for Evacuation: If your vehicle stalls in floodwater, abandon it if you can safely do so and move to higher ground. Floodwater can rise quickly and sweep a car away.
  11. Keep an Emergency Kit: Have an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes items like water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, and a charged mobile phone.

In Texas, where weather conditions can change rapidly, it’s vital to stay updated with weather forecasts and road conditions, especially during seasons prone to flooding. Remember, the safest approach is to avoid driving through flooded areas.

Driving in Extreme Heat

Driving in extreme heat, which is common in Texas, requires special precautions to ensure both your safety and the proper functioning of your vehicle. Here are some tips for handling these conditions:

  1. Check Your Vehicle Beforehand: Before setting out, make sure your vehicle is prepared for the heat. This includes checking the air conditioning system, ensuring the coolant is at the correct level, and verifying that your engine oil is suitable for hot conditions.
  2. Keep the Engine Cool: Monitor your vehicle’s temperature gauge. If it starts to climb into the hot range, turn off the air conditioner and turn on the heater. This can help draw heat away from the engine.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Extreme heat can lead to dehydration, which can cause fatigue and impair your driving ability.
  4. Use Sunshades and Window Visors: When parked, use sunshades or window visors to keep the interior of your car cooler and protect the dashboard from sun damage.
  5. Park in the Shade: Whenever possible, park your car in the shade to minimize heat buildup inside the vehicle.
  6. Ventilate Your Car Before Driving: Open the doors and windows for a few minutes to let any accumulated hot air escape before turning on the air conditioning.
  7. Protect Yourself from the Sun: Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare and apply sunscreen to exposed skin to prevent sunburn, even while in the car.
  8. Plan Your Travel: If possible, avoid driving during the hottest part of the day. Early morning or evening trips can be more comfortable and safer.
  9. Carry an Emergency Kit: Include items such as water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, and a charged mobile phone. In case of a breakdown, you’ll be better prepared to handle the heat while waiting for help.
  10. Be Aware of Heat-Related Illnesses: Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If you start feeling dizzy, fatigued, or nauseous, pull over safely and seek a cool place.
  11. Check Back Seats Before Exiting: Never leave children or pets in a parked car, even for a short period. The interior temperature of a car can increase rapidly, leading to potentially fatal conditions.

Driving in Texas’s extreme heat can be challenging, but by taking these precautions, you can reduce the risk of vehicle breakdowns and protect your health and safety.

Common Mistakes when Driving in Bad Weather

Driving in bad weather, be it rain, snow, fog, or other challenging conditions, can be hazardous, and certain common mistakes can significantly increase the risk of accidents. Here are some of the most common errors drivers make in bad weather:

  1. Overestimating Vehicle Capabilities: Many drivers assume that their vehicle, especially if it’s a four-wheel drive or has advanced safety features, can handle any weather condition. However, these features can’t always compensate for the dangers of slippery or poorly visible roads.
  2. Driving Too Fast for Conditions: One of the biggest mistakes is not adjusting speed to match the weather conditions. Even if you’re driving below the posted speed limit, you might still be going too fast to react safely to obstacles or changes in road conditions.
  3. Following Too Closely: Not leaving enough space between your vehicle and the one ahead is particularly dangerous in bad weather. Increased stopping distances are required on wet, icy, or snowy roads.
  4. Using High Beams in Fog: In foggy conditions, high beams can reflect off the fog and actually reduce visibility. It’s better to use low beams or fog lights if your vehicle has them.
  5. Not Using Turn Signals: Failing to signal your intentions can be even more hazardous in bad weather, as other drivers might have reduced visibility and reaction times.
  6. Not Clearing Snow and Ice from the Vehicle: In winter conditions, not clearing snow and ice from the entire car, including the roof, can create hazards for yourself and other drivers.
  7. Ignoring Road Closure Signs: Driving around barriers or ignoring road closure signs can lead to dangerous situations, especially if the road is flooded or washed out.
  8. Not Preparing the Vehicle for the Season: Not having the correct type of oil, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, or tires for the season can lead to mechanical failures and reduced vehicle performance.
  9. Braking Suddenly: On slippery roads, sudden braking can lead to skids. It’s important to brake gently and early.
  10. Ignoring Weather Warnings: Not taking weather warnings seriously and deciding to drive despite advisories can put drivers and their passengers in unnecessary danger.

Avoiding these common mistakes can help ensure a safer journey when driving in adverse weather conditions. Being cautious, aware, and prepared is key to navigating challenging road situations.

How Liability is Determined in Weather-Related Crashes in Texas

If weather was the primary cause of your accident and injuries, and the other drivers involved acted responsibly, it’s unlikely you can file a claim for damages and injuries from the insurance company of the other driver.

However, poor weather conditions, including bad weather, do not necessarily exempt a driver from liability. If a driver is found to be negligent during inclement weather, such as driving at an unsafe speed or not using headlights, they can be held liable for damages and injuries caused by the accident.

Assigning liability in weather-related crashes can be complicated. All circumstances will need to be thoroughly evaluated, including driver behavior, road conditions, and other contributing factors. In Texas, liability in weather-related accidents is based on the principle of comparative negligence, meaning each party can be assigned a percentage of fault based on their actions or negligence.

For example, if you were injured in a bad weather accident, and it’s determined that the other driver was 70 percent at fault for driving too fast for conditions, but you were found to be 30 percent at fault for not signaling before changing lanes, your final compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Seeking legal counsel can help you understand the specific circumstances of your case and how Texas laws apply.

types of compensation

What Kind of Damages Can I Recover from a Weather-Related Car Accident?

If you can prove that your injuries were caused by a negligent party, such as an unsafe driver – and you are less than 50 percent responsible for the accident in Texas – you may be eligible to collect damages. In Texas, there are three types of damages in personal injury claims including:

  1. Economic Damages: These cover tangible losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. This type of damage is quantifiable and aims to compensate the victim for out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to the injury.
  2. Non-Economic Damages: These are intended to cover intangible losses that are not easily quantified in monetary terms. This includes pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, disability or disfigurement, and loss of consortium or companionship.
  3. Punitive Damages: Also known as exemplary damages, these are not intended to compensate the victim, but rather to punish the defendant for particularly reckless or malicious behavior and to deter similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages are not awarded in every case and are subject to specific legal standards.

It’s important to understand that in Texas, the concept of comparative negligence applies. This means that if you are found to be partially at fault for the accident, your compensation may be reduced by the percentage of your fault. However, as long as your level of responsibility is less than 50 percent, you are still eligible to seek these damages. The legal team at Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group can explain how this applies to your specific situation.

How Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group Can Help if You’ve Been Injured in a Weather-Related Wreck

Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group is committed to assisting Texans injured in weather-related accidents. Our services include:

  • Comprehensive case evaluations to determine the cause of your accident and identify liable parties.
  • Thorough investigations of weather-related accidents, including collecting evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and medical records.
  • Negotiating with insurance companies for full and fair compensation for damages and losses.
  • Filing a lawsuit on your behalf to pursue maximum compensation through litigation if a fair settlement can’t be reached.

We understand how a weather-related injury accident can impact your life. We are here to help you seek justice and hold responsible parties accountable. We offer a free consultation and case evaluation to help you understand the validity of your claim and provide guidance on what steps to take next.

If we take your case, you will never pay us anything upfront or out-of-pocket. We work on contingency, which means we only get paid if and when you receive a settlement or verdict. We pride ourselves on our personalized attention to each client, ensuring their rights are protected and they receive the best possible outcome for their case. Contact us today at 817207-4878 (HURT) for a free consultation.

Tips for Driving in Bad Weather

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About the Author

Benson Varghese Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned trial attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has been to trial throughout state and federal courts in Texas. 

As a former insurance adjuster himself, Benson has insights into how insurance companies evaluate claims – and why without the proper encouragement, they are likely to undervalue a claim. Benson uses these insights combined with his clout in the courtroom to obtain justice for his clients – in and outside of the courtroom.

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