A thunderstorm can turn a short drive into a nightmare. Rain, gusty winds, and lightning can reduce visibility and make the roads slippery. However, driving in nasty weather is sometimes unavoidable, be it due to emergencies or a sudden change in the weather. That’s why it’s important to know how to drive in a thunderstorm.
What to Do When You’re Caught Up In a Thunderstorm
Ideally, you should find a safe spot to park your vehicle and wait it out. When there’s a lightning storm, your car is one of the safest places to be because it acts as a Faraday cage.
The car’s metal structure works like a protective shield against the electrical energy from the lightning. As long as you don’t touch any metal parts, you’ll be safe inside your car.
Don’t park next to trees or any other structures that could fall or catch fire once lightning strikes them. If you can, avoid slopes or areas that are prone to flooding. Roll your windows up to keep the rain out and muffle thunder, and turn the engine off.
Safety Tips for Driving in a Severe Thunderstorm
Although the safest thing to do is to let the storm pass, some circumstances might push you to continue driving. If that’s the case, here are some tips to keep in mind to stay safe:
Turn On Your Car Lights
Storms reduce visibility, making it hard to spot signs, pedestrians, and other vehicles on the road. Turning on your fog lights and/or low beam headlights can increase visibility and make your vehicle more noticeable.
Some drivers also turn on their hazard lights to warn pedestrians and other drivers of their location. Take note, however, that in some states, it’s illegal to turn your hazard lights while driving through a storm because they can distract other drivers. Double-check the local hazard light laws in your area before using this safety tip.
It’s too risky to drive fast during heavy rainfall. You might not be able to see if there’s a vehicle or an object of you, and the rain can make the roads slippery.
To avoid getting into a collision, drive slowly. Adjust your speed to at least 10 km per hour below the posted speed limit, as the set speed limit is meant for normal driving conditions.
Don’t Pass Through Bridges
If it’s a severe thunderstorm, steer clear of bridges. Bridges could give way during a thunderstorm, so use alternative routes or put off driving until the storm passes to avoid getting into an accident.
It’s generally not good to practice tailgating because it increases the possibility of rear-end collisions. This risk increases when the roads are wet. These conditions will reduce your ride’s braking ability, so you must keep a safe distance from other vehicles on the road.
Keep Your Windows Up
Aside from preventing your car cabin from getting wet, it will also reduce distractions while driving. The gusty wind and heavy rain can disrupt your focus. Also, make sure your car doors are shut.
Do These Safety Tips Still Apply If There’s a Tornado?
No, they don’t. When the thunderstorm comes with a tornado, seek shelter. Remember, you can’t outrun a tornado. Park your car and look for a safe place. If there’s a building nearby, park near it and take shelter in its lowest level. Don’t stay near windows because the wind can shatter them.
What to Watch Out for When Driving in a Thunderstorm
Aside from low-visibility conditions, here are other things that make driving during these situations risky:
Debris Flying Around
Strong winds can carry debris that can damage your vehicle. If you’re in an area with many trees, branches can fall and hit your windshield due to the wind. Anything that the wind can dislodge and break can fly and hit your car during a severe storm.
Strong and severe thunderstorms can also produce large hail that can damage your vehicle. In this situation, it’s best not to push through, and wait for the storm to pass.
Depending on the location, a thunderstorm can cause a flash flood. Getting stuck in your car during this situation can be catastrophic for your vehicle and life-threatening for you.
So, keep yourself updated, monitor the weather, and watch the news. Flash floods are usually unpredictable, but you can check for a flood watch or flash flood watch in your area. If there’s one, reconsider your trip.
Avoid puddles—especially when driving on a road you’re unfamiliar with. Don’t assume that the puddle isn’t deep because it can be hiding a pothole.
How to Make Your Car Stormproof
It’s impossible to make your car perfectly stormproof, but there are some things you can do to prepare your car in case you need to drive when there’s a storm.
Make sure your tires are in good condition. Old and worn tires have less traction, increasing the risk of an accident when the roads are wet.
Lastly, follow your car’s regular maintenance schedule. Getting stuck on the road during a storm because you put off changing your oil is something you surely want to avoid.
What Happens When a Car Gets Struck By Lightning?
Don’t touch any part of your vehicle for at least 30 minutes (especially its metal components) after it gets struck by lightning. Once it’s safe to come out of the vehicle, you can visually inspect your car for any signs of damage.
The electric surge can damage the car’s internal mechanisms, metal and plastic parts, electrical systems, and paint job. In severe cases, your car can even catch fire.
Have a mechanic check your car if this happens to get it back in shape and ready to take on the road in no time!
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.