7. Slow down safely.
“We like to train people to control their velocity with the accelerator,” Van Tassel says. That’s because it’s generally safer to ease off the gas pedal than it is to slam on the brakes, and it requires you to look further ahead and stay focused on the task at hand, which are vital for safe driving in any weather. If you drive slowly enough and pay keen attention to what’s happening around you, you can often avoid relying heavily on your brakes. “By lifting your foot off the accelerator, you not only slow down, you also put your foot in a better position to use the brake if you absolutely need to,” he says.
Most vehicles today have antilock brakes, but if you don’t have them, avoid slamming on your brakes which can lock the wheels and increase the risk of hydroplaning and fishtailing. Instead, pump the brakes lightly to slow down. With anti-lock brakes, you can firmly press on the brakes and use what is known as the plant-and-steer method. This method allows you to steer while braking. That’s what antilock brakes are for. “They’re not designed to make you brake faster,” Van Tassel says. “They’re designed to let you brake and control the vehicle at the same time.”
8. Change lanes only when necessary.
On wet roads, do your best to avoid changing lanes. But if conditions require you to move over—maybe your lane is flooded, you’re being tailgated, or you don't feel comfortable with the traffic flow—do it as cautiously as you can. Signal with your blinker, check your rear- and side-view mirrors to make sure the path is clear, and execute the lane change carefully.
9. Increase visibility.
Most states require that headlights be kept on in low-visibility conditions, and in California, anytime your windshield wipers are on continuously, headlights are required by law to be on as well. But no matter the conditions, it’s always a good idea to have your low-beams on, according to Van Tassel. “They don’t just help you see,” he says. “They also help you be seen.”
In cold and wet conditions, turn on your windshield defroster with the A/C on to remove moisture from the air and prevent your windows from fogging. When it’s foggy outside, use your low beams. High beams in fog are counterproductive, as the light bounces off beads of moisture and produces glare that reduces your own visibility.
10. Adjust accordingly.
When temperatures drop, other hazards can arise, including ice, rain, fog, and snow. In these conditions, many of the same recommendations for driving in the rain apply. See this detailed video from AAA for more information about safely driving in winter weather.
“There are so many different scenarios you can encounter,” Van Tassel says. “But so much of this comes back to driving slowly and staying aware.”