Extreme Weather & Your Vehicle

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Limited visibility, powerful winds, earth raining from the sky, freezing rain, and white-out conditions. The weather has an extreme effect on us and has the power to dictate various aspects of our lives.

Adverse weather can also have long and damaging effects on your vehicle. Proper maintenance and increased regular inspections during extreme weather seasons should be a priority for any car owner. But what does that mean?

Preparing your vehicle for inauspicious weather conditions should be an active task. Keeping your vehicle ready for these unpredictable events should be part of your regular maintenance on your vehicle.

Knowing what weather your region typically receives is critical to staying prepared. If you live in the northern half of the country, it should be expected of you to carry chains for ice and snow. For us Texans, rain gear is essential. Confirming that your emergency equipment is in working order should be part of your regular maintenance routines.

What’s considered ‘regular maintenance’ will range wildly depending on which area of the country you live in. Beyond the apparent risk to your well-being is the impact that your preparedness can have on those around you. What happens if your inability to prepare for extreme weather negatively impacts others? 

As mentioned, your emergency safety equipment must be maintained and in working order. Choosing not to do so risks your equipment failing you at the most inopportune time. Regardless of the weather, if you are found to be ultimately responsible for causing an accident/injury, your negligence in this matter will act against you. 

Let’s propose, for example, a snowstorm hits town, and you must still come to the office. You strap on your snow chains but don’t notice a rusty link. While driving, your chains break, and you lose control of your vehicle, sliding into other cars and creating a pileup. 

This type of scenario happens every year, and every year, the driver that caused the initial accident is held responsible because of their negligence in maintaining said equipment. Unless your equipment is found to be specifically defective, you will be held at fault. 

All of this can confuse those inexperienced in these and related matters. Step one; staying informed. We know being alert and staying prepared is how you stay safe. But how do you do that? What should you have? What can you do to prepare?

As advanced as our weather radar and detection systems have gotten, predicting and preparing for ever-changing weather conditions is still difficult. This was just the case for residents of the Texas panhandle that had to deal with some rather extreme conditions recently. Residents near Amarillo suffered through what’s known as a ‘brown-out.’ 

Similar to a ‘white-out,’ a ‘brown-out’ is when debris, in this case, dirt & earth, is moved around by high winds. These types of events routinely result in property damage and injury due to their poor visibility conditions. This was just the case in the previously mentioned storm. The ‘brown-out’ created conditions nearly impossible to see or drive in. This led to an 8-vehicle pileup, including an 18-wheeler. Thankfully, no major injuries were reported in connection with the crash. 

When extreme weather strikes, it’s critical to have a plan. An essential aspect of your strategy should be educating yourself about the harsh conditions most likely to occur in your area. 

Let’s stick with Amarillo as an example. The Texas panhandle is situated in an area of the country known as Tornado Alley. As the name implies, this stretch of the land is known for commonly having tornados. Savvy residents know to watch for two crucial alerts; storm watches and storm warnings.

Although the two may sound very similar, they can be wildly different. A storm watch occurs when weather professionals in the area see that conditions are possible for a significant storm to occur. This, however, doesn’t mean a storm will come about; only to be ready for the possibility. A storm warning means danger is potentially imminent and a storm has formed. To stay informed, it’s best to pay attention to your local news station, as they will report on severe weather. Set notifications for those news channels if you use social media like Twitter. That way, you’ll get notified as soon as that information becomes available, giving you as much time as possible to prepare.   

Knowing the ‘when’ and ‘where’ will shape your ‘how’ when preparing for extreme weather. With the skills and education in place, it’s recommended that you maintain a checklist of all your equipment and familiarize yourself with proper maintenance practices and how to use said tools. 

Training and practicing are the two most critical aspects of preparing for extreme weather. Do not wait to learn how to put chains on your car when knee-deep in snow. Don’t learn on the fly how to change your wipers.

If education and information are the ‘Heads Side’ of this coin, then training, practice, and experience are the ‘tails side’. The two schools of thought need to work together to avoid the worst during extreme weather. Improper training can lead to devastating results on the road for the unprepared. 

Drivers who want to master the art of navigating these moments may wish to consider taking annual safety courses, reviewing instruction manuals for their equipment, and keeping a checklist of their equipment.

Extreme weather will eventually strike. To avoid a costly mistake, then prepare now. 

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