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What Are the Most Dangerous Conditions for Driving?



Most of us drive at least occasionally, knowing full well that driving and riding motorcycles are somewhat dangerous activities. Every year, tens of thousands of people are killed in accidents in the United States.

But what are the most dangerous conditions that cause these types of accidents? And how can you avoid them?

Vehicle Risks

First, let’s acknowledge the fact that your risk profile changes depending on what kind of vehicle you’re driving (and if you’re driving one).

Motorcycles, for example, are much more dangerous than cars. Motorcycles are smaller and therefore harder to see, they’re faster and more agile (which can sometimes lead to more dangerous styles of operation), and they afford their passengers less protection, making them more likely to be injured or killed in the event of an accident.

Being a pedestrian is also arguably more dangerous than driving, given the same initial risk of an accident; as a pedestrian, you have no real protection to shield you from impact.

The Most Dangerous Conditions for Driving

Regardless of where or how you’re driving, these are some of the most dangerous conditions to look out for:

  •       Low visibility. Visibility is indispensable for driving safely. When you can see clearly in front of you, you can quickly analyze potential hazards and risks, gauge the performance of drivers around you, and navigate cleanly. If your visibility is obstructed, some hazards will be outright invisible to you, and others will be challenging to identify. If a car in front of you slams on the brakes, you may not be able to see them until it’s too late. If there is a pothole or an obstacle in the road, you may collide with it before you realize what’s happening.
  •       Icy roads. Roads that are covered with ice are also dangerous, especially if that ice isn’t readily visible. Ice reduces traction, making it harder for you to control your vehicle and increasing the amount of time it takes you to come to a complete stop. When people are aware that roads are icy, they typically drive slower and more cautiously; but invisible “black ice” presents all the dangers with none of the warnings.
  •       Heavy precipitation. Heavy precipitation conditions can also be dangerous. Not only do they introduce low visibility conditions, they can also cover the roads, making it harder to control your vehicle. Snow, ice, and hail are all problematic in different ways.
  •       Standing water. Most vehicles handle just fine when there’s a bit of moisture on the road, but standing water introduces a much more dangerous possibility. If you hit the standing water recklessly, you could lose control of your vehicle.
  •       Roads in poor condition. Roads in poor condition cause accidents with greater frequency as well. If the road is full of holes and bumps, there will be more obstacles for drivers to dodge and more opportunities for collisions to unfold. This is especially dangerous if the areas of poor condition are hard for drivers to notice.
  •       High wind. Motor vehicles are typically very heavy, but that doesn’t mean that wind doesn’t affect them. If you’ve ever driven in windy conditions, you know that a strong wind can physically push your car in ways that are hard to predict or compensate for. If the wind catches you off guard, you could easily lose control and cause an accident.
  •       High temperatures. For most drivers and most vehicles, a relatively hot day is no issue. But when temperatures reach a certain threshold, vehicles run the risk of overheating. If your vehicle overheats on the road, you could lose control of it, ultimately resulting in a collision.
  •       Inoperable signals. Traffic signs and signals are there for our safety; when they don’t work properly, it’s harder to navigate dangerous intersections as city planners intended. There are protocols in place for how to deal with traffic lights that no longer have access to electricity, but since most drivers aren’t used to dealing with these conditions, these intersections can become chaotic.
  •       Construction. When a road is under construction, drivers are at increased risk of an accident. There may be more hazards to deal with, less room for maneuverability, and more distractions to take your focus off the road.

Becoming a Safer Driver

If you want to become a safer driver and minimize your risk of being injured or killed in a car or motorcycle accident, it’s important to recognize these dangerous conditions and avoid them whenever convenient to do so.

For example, if it’s snowing heavily and visibility is low, consider canceling your plans or finding alternative travel arrangements.

If you have no way to avoid dangerous driving conditions, your best bet is to operate your vehicle with greater caution and focus.

That means eliminating any possible distractions, staying focused on the road, decreasing your speed, and increasing your following distance. Do this, and the roads will be safer not only for you but also for the people around you.