Spring driving safety tips

Whether you're ready for the crazy weather in an Ohio spring or not, it's already here in much of the state -- where weather in February and March can go from winter white one day to warm rain, strong winds and even hail the next.

That means drivers need to be particularly wary on the roads right now, especially if they commute any distance. Forty minutes on the highway either north or south can make a huge difference in the type of weather you see, even on the same day. Here's how to play it safe:

1. When the weather gets rough, turn down the radio.

While you're at it, turn off your phone and tell your passengers to quiet down. You need your full attention on the highway ahead in strong winds or driving rain.

2. Give larger vehicles a wide berth.

Rain sheeting off a large commercial truck can be blinding, but that isn't the worst thing that you face. Instead, you need to be particularly cautious if the winds are high. The taller frame of a box truck or van, for example, is going to struggle more against strong winds. Inexperienced or tired drivers may have a hard time keeping their vehicles in their own lanes. Don't try to pass anything unless you're sure the vehicle is steady.

3. Slow down when it's raining.

One of the biggest dangers in the spring rains is hydroplaning. That's what happens when your wheels end up losing their grip on the road due to the film of water on the surface.

If you feel your wheels slipping or your back end "fishtailing" a little, that's a clue to slow down. In addition, you want to give yourself a larger distance than normal when you're behind another vehicle. It's not unusual to slide further than you expect when you brake quickly on wet concrete.

4. Turn the headlights on.

Finally, the overcast skies in late winter and early spring often creates a twilight effect even in the middle of the day. Since you may be driving in and out of overcast areas just a few miles away from sunny ones, put your headlights on and leave them on while driving. It makes you more visible to others -- and visibility is often the key to avoiding an unfortunate car accident.

Source: Travelers, "How to Drive Safely in Strong Wind and Rain," accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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