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Don't let Mother Nature distract you: the dangers of driving in the spring
The sun is out, flowers are starting to bud and the birds are singing. Spring is here. While winter is in the rearview mirror, that doesn't necessarily mean the roads are safer.
Here are some conditions that are common in this transitional season and some tips to stay safe during each situation.
Rain, flooding and slick roads
Spring showers and melting snow can bring about their own set of dangers. Rain makes roads especially slippery, not only because it is wet, but also because of the oil that rises to the surface of the road and mixes with the water.
"When light rain mixes with oil residue on the road surface, it creates slippery conditions that can cause vehicles, especially those traveling speeds in excess of 35 mph, to hydroplane," says safemotorist.com. "This can be a deadly combination for the driver and surrounding motorists."
There are almost 1.3 million weather-related crashes every year, with nearly 73 percent of those accidents happening on wet pavement (not snow or sleet) and 46 percent during rainfall, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Making sure you have good tires is key for handling rain, flooding or slick roads in the spring.
If you have winter tires for your car, keeping them on until temperatures rise is a good idea, notes Tirerack. This is especially true if temperatures are still regularly 50 degrees or below where you live. The reason is that the rubber of many all-season tires or summer tires gets too hard in cooler temperatures, making handling extremely difficult should rain or hail start falling.
If you live in an area ravaged by extreme winter weather, there is a good chance your roads will be in rough shape in the spring. Salt, sand, and plows being used on the road to remove ice and snow may leave crater-size potholes that can cause serious damage to your car.
If you can't safely avoid a pothole, slow down as much as possible and drive straight into it, suggests Consumer Reports. Driving straight into a pothole at a low speed will reduce the amount of possible damage to your tire, wheel and suspension by providing a direct angle of impact. Turning your steering wheel or hitting it at an angle increases the likelihood of serious damage to these parts.
After hitting a pothole, pay attention to how your car drives. If you notice any shaking or pulling to one side, something has probably been damaged and needs to be checked out.
Animals on the road
Just like humans, animals get spring fever and tend to be very active around roads. This is especially true during mating season.
"National crash databases estimate the total number of reported collisions at 300,000 per year," reports the Federal Highway Administration. "However, most researchers believe that (wildlife-vehicle collisions) are substantially under-reported for a number of reasons. Crash databases typically exclude accidents that have less than $1,000 in property damage; not all drivers report collisions with animals, and not all law enforcement, natural resource, or transportation agencies have the resources to collect detailed information on WVCs. Furthermore, many animals that are injured wander away from the road before they die and are never found."
While driving, make sure to pay attention to animal crossing signs as well as the speed limit.
Motorcyclists and bicyclists
Though they're not a product of Mother Nature, many motorcycle and bicycle riders come out of hibernation in the spring. Being able to see these two-wheeled travelers is a real issue.
In 2015 alone, there were almost 5,000 motorcycle deaths and over 88,000 nonfatal injuries to motorcycle riders in the United States. Most of these crashes were due to drivers being unaware of their surroundings, according to the National Safety Council.
Cyclists can especially pose unique issues for drivers because of their small size. Being aware of cyclists is crucial for a safe driving experience this spring.
Head over to Drive Safe for more tips on how to be safe while driving during the changing seasons of the year.