No matter where you live, you are bound to encounter strong winds, especially during a storm. These high-speed gusts can make driving dangerous and difficult. And if you’re on the road when it starts to blow, it can be hard to determine when it’s safe to drive or better to wait it out.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), a High Wind Warning means that sustained winds of 40 mph will blow for at least an hour or frequent gusts reaching 58 mph. These strong winds could damage trees and cause power outages.
Wind gusts aren't always apparent while you're driving, but they can still cause accidents. You may not see or hear the wind, but you might notice signs of its presence by watching other cars around you. If other vehicles are staggering or swaying back and forth, that could be a sign that wind is affecting your car as well.
Weather-Related Deaths and Injuries
In 2020, there were 585 deaths and 1,708 injuries related to 60,714 weather events. Winter weather, tornadoes, and floods accounted for the most significant number of severe weather-related deaths in that year. Enormous reported injuries resulted from tornadoes, high winds, including thunderstorm winds, and wildfires.
Tips When Driving In Strong Winds
A car is designed to be aerodynamic, meaning it is shaped in such a way as to reduce drag while it’s moving. When the wind hits one side of the vehicle more than the other, it creates an imbalance known as a crosswind. This can push your car sideways and even cause it to spin out of control or rollover—especially if you’re driving at high speeds.
If you're driving in strong winds, it is important to remember that you can only control your car and not the wind. Here are some tips to help you drive safely in strong winds:
1. First, check the weather forecast before you leave.
While driving, keep an eye out for warning signs and be aware of any sudden gusts. A GPS device or smartphone app usually shows upcoming weather conditions. If they are bad, consider delaying your trip or traveling by another means.
2. Drive at the right speed.
The faster you drive, the more difficult it is to control your car. High winds can push your vehicle around, especially if you're driving a tall vehicle like a truck or SUV. Drive slower than usual and stay alert so you can react quickly if something unexpected happens.
3. Be extra careful around trucks, buses, and RVs.
These vehicles are tall and can be easily blown off course by strong winds. If you see one ahead of you, give yourself some extra space, so you have plenty of room to maneuver around them if necessary. Don't pass them unless it's necessary because their backdrafts can make things more dangerous for you than for them (they're heavy enough that their tires will grip the road).
4. Maintain control of your car at all times.
The wind may be blowing against you, but don't let it distract from what's going on around you. Other drivers might not know how to handle themselves in high winds either and could do something unexpected that forces you into action quickly.
5. Avoid making quick stops or turns.
Strong wind gusts can cause your vehicle to sway back and forth. If you make a quick stop or turn while the wind is blowing hard, you will more likely lose control of your car. Make sure that you have plenty of time to stop before pulling into traffic or turning onto another road.
6. Keep both hands on the steering wheel.
Expect strong crosswinds that could blow your vehicle toward other lanes or off the road entirely. If this happens suddenly, grip the steering wheel firmly with both hands and ease up on the gas pedal if you feel yourself losing control of the vehicle.
7. Secure loose items in your car.
This one seems obvious, but it is easy to forget when you're rushing out of your house in a hurry. Ensure that everything inside your car is secure before getting behind the wheel. Secure any loose items inside the car, such as cellphones or grocery bags. If not properly secured, these objects could fly around inside the cabin or out of the vehicle entirely if a window is open during gusts of wind.
8. Check your tires.
Your tires are what keep you in contact with the road, so make sure they are ready for the extreme weather. As a general rule of thumb, you should replace your tires every six years or sooner if they're showing signs of wear and tear.
9. Stay off bridges and overpasses if possible.
Bridges are more susceptible to high winds because they tend to be open and elevated, making them less stable than roads closer to the ground.
10. Watch for debris in the road.
Strong winds can cause debris to fly onto the roadway. Anything from tree limbs and trash bags to garbage cans and lawn furniture could end up getting blown into traffic. This can cause a major hazard for both you and other drivers on the road, so always remain alert while driving in strong winds.
Strong winds can be as terrifying as they are unpredictable. As a driver, this means that you need to stay aware of sudden gusts just as much as you do puddles and patches of ice. Your extra attention will pay off with a safer, more comfortable trip. And the easier it is to drive safely, the less effort you will expend worrying about the weather.
Being proactive and using these tips to drive safely during a storm can help you reach your destination without getting into any trouble. The last thing you want is to get stranded in the middle of a storm because you underestimated the high winds.
Make sure you’re always ClimaGuard ready! For more car safety tips, visit our blog site.