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9. Auto Accidents: Causes & Prevention

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175

Wet Weather - General

Regardless of your driving experience, the odds are greater that you will have a collision in wet weather. A hard rain can limit visibility so much you can’t see the edge of the road, traffic signs, or other cars. If you must drive under such conditions, it’s helpful to have the knowledge and skills to cope.

Wet, snow covered, or icy road surfaces create a situation which is hazardous. If possible, do not drive when the roadway is wet, snow-covered, or icy. Wait until the weather is better, or at least until the road has been snow-plowed.

Keep your windshield and windows clean. It is important to clean the inside of your windows at least once a week – more often if you smoke.

Use the defrosters to keep front and rear windshields clear. On a cold day, move the heat control to "hot" and let the engine warm up before turning on the defrosters and blowers. This will prevent moisture from collecting on the inside of the glass. If the windshield or windows get foggy, open a window slightly and turn the defroster fan to a higher speed. Use the air conditioner to reduce humidity.

Although tinted windows have been promoted to reduce glare from the sun and make air conditioning more efficient, they also reduce visibility in inclement weather. Consider options to tinted windows such as sunglasses and sun visors to improve visibility.

Make sure you are able to see and be seen. When driving on wet streets, mud and dirt splash on the headlights, reducing effectiveness by up to 90 percent. Stop periodically during a long trip to clean your headlights, taillights, and windshield. Keep low beam headlights on at all times in wet conditions, especially on dark or overcast days.

When visibility is so limited that you can’t see the edge of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance, it’s time to pull off and wait for the rain or snow to ease up. It is best to stop at a rest area or exit the freeway and go to a protected area. If the roadside is your only option, pull off the road as far as you can, preferably past the end of a guardrail. Other drivers frequently strike vehicles parked at the side of the road. Respect the limitations of reduced visibility and turn headlights off and emergency flashers on to alert other drivers.

If you must drive during inclement weather, there are precautions that you should take to avoid skidding. The number one rule for driving in bad weather is to slow down, particularly when approaching turns, sharp curves, and intersections. You should give yourself an extra-large space cushion around your vehicle, particularly in front. Avoid making quick maneuvers such as sudden turns, braking, or acceleration; do these things gradually and slowly to avoid skidding.

When driving in wet weather conditions on roads or highways, you may need to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Steering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 miles per hour because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In wet weather sudden braking often leads to skids.

Your car’s grip on the road depends on a small area of contact where the tires meet the road surface, called the tire’s footprint . The amount of water on the road, your speed and the condition of your tires affect footprint traction. Good tread allows water to escape from under the tires. Proper inflation also increases traction. Low tire pressure allows the tread to squeeze together, reducing the tire’s ability to wipe or channel away water. Tires specifically designed for wet weather traction allow more water to escape, keeping the footprint in contact with the road surface.

Stopping on a slippery surface requires more distance. Focus your attention as far ahead as possible – at least 20 to 30 seconds. The best way to stop on a slippery surface is to use threshold or controlled braking and shifting. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, the best way to threshold or control braking is the heel-and-toe method. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use your toes to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. Stop the pressure just short of locking the wheels. If your heel leaves the floor, the ball of your foot pushes the pedal and the wheels lock up because you’re controlling the brake with your thigh muscles, which are incapable of finer control.

Under the stress of trying to stop quickly, drivers almost inevitably overreact and lock the wheels. If this happens, use heel-and-toe action to release brake pressure one or two degrees then immediately reapply it with slightly less pressure.

If you have anti-lock brakes you should also use the heel-and-toe method. In addition, do not remove your foot from the brake pedal or pump the pedal. If you apply too much brake pressure and the wheels lock momentarily, you might feel the brake pedal pulse back against your foot. Pumping the pedal works against the antilock system by providing false information to the sensors.

Lesson Summary


  

Lesson 9 Quiz


You will now answer 5 questions to test what you learned during this lesson. You must answer all questions correctly to receive completion credit for this lesson. You may answer the questions as many times as necessary to get them right.

You should review the lesson material if you don't do well on the quiz.

  1. To avoid tailgating, and help avoid a rear-end collision, you should give yourself a gap of how many seconds behind the car in front of you?


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  2. If you have a tire blowout:


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  3. Failure to yield is the primary cause of what percentage of fatal and injury collisions?


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  4. If you are distracted for one second, by a cell phone, passenger, or other distraction, at 30 mph you will travel how far "blindly"?


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  5. Teenage drivers have a total accident rate that is _____ times that of adults:


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