Joe Carbon is a former driving instructor and crew chief for the internationally renowned Skip Barber Racing School and current kart and motorcycle racer. His automotive repair company, “Good Old-Fashioned Auto Repair”, in Mooresville, North Carolina pairs his over 40+ years of automotive service and repair experience with well over 3 million miles of driving experience in all types of vehicles. Joe's insight from road and track will help you stay safe on your “road of life”.
Recently, Terri and I were on our way home from a road trip in Wilmington. The weather was less than wonderful with periods of fast moving, ominous clouds constantly in my line of sight as we approached. I began to do what I always do: look at tree tops in front and alongside the road for signs of wind gusts so that I could predict and adapt to what was ahead.
It reminded me of a very scary time back in New York in the 1980’s driving my step van RV crossing a long-span bridge over the Hudson River named the Tappan Zee Bridge. The wind was blowing northbound on the river as we crossed and suddenly I felt the truck go up on 2 wheels. I looked ahead and saw a tractor trailer in the opposite direction blown over and propped up against the center divider. Even though I had slowed down to 20MPH, the wind still wanted to take me over. I got right up against the center divider to keep more wind from getting underneath the truck and flipping me over and somehow I was able to inch across the rest of the span to safety. Having that memory as we drove along gave me a great topic for this months “Drivin’ With Joe”!
We did an internet search and found a great culmination put together by Elephant Insurance for their article “6 Tips For Driving In Windy Weather”. We’ve added some pictures to “dress it up”. Here it is below.
“No matter what summer brings, the wind is one of the “elements” that’s shared with every condition. Heavy gusts can blow both on days when it’s dark and dreary or bright and sunny. Most of these winds are harmless, but when you’re out on the roads, gusts are amplified, making it hard steer on highway straightaways, in the city, or rounding corners in rural retreats.
In short, no matter where you go, you always have to be mindful of what Mother Nature will churn up next. If you ever find yourself in the midst of a heavy windstorm while driving in your car, here are a few tips to help you avoid an accident:
Keep both hands on the wheels
It’s always a good idea to drive with both hands on the wheel, but it’s particularly important when it’s windy out. When the wind blows, you can feel the car shifting one way or the other, and with only one hand on the wheel, you risk veering into an oncoming lane. Keeping your left and right hand at the 10 o’clock position and 2 o’clock position, respectively, will make it easier to stay straight and adjust accordingly.
Be aware of your surroundings
Some vehicles are more susceptible to high wind gusts than others. Commercial trucks are chief among them, as there’s more surface area to contend with. If you’re on the highway, make sure you remain either ahead or behind these big rigs to avoid a potential accident should it veer into your lane.
Besides being against the law, going faster than the posted speed limit, contrary to popular belief, will not help you diminish the effects of heavy wind gusts. If anything, you should lower your rate of speed so that you have more control of the vehicle and can adjust the steering wheel if you feel the car moving to one side or the other.
Watch for falling objects
If you’re in a wooded area and the wind has picked up, be very careful of falling objects, like downed tree branches, twigs, or tree limbs. These are more susceptible to breaking and could enter the path where you’re driving. Also, try to be cognizant if there are other vehicles that are carrying goods in truck beds, like mattresses, or furniture, as these also could become flying projectiles.
Park in an open area
Hopefully, by the time you get to your destination, the winds will have died down. But if they’re still forceful, ensure that you park someplace that’s a distance away from nearby trees, power lines, or other standing structures.
Be weather alert
Oftentimes wind storms come at a surprise, which is why you need to be ready when they strike should they happen on the roads. But meteorologists are able to track the wind in their daily weather reports. Because of this, you should make sure that you’re always aware of what the weather is going to be like on a daily basis. If heavy wind is in the forecast, stay off the roads if possible.”
Wind creates additional problems for drivers. It can be especially dangerous for recreational vehicles, campers, and vehicles towing trailers. The best defensive driving technique you can use for wind is driving at slower speeds.
Wind generally reduces your steering control. Tail winds push the car, increasing speed. Head winds slow the car down.
Crosswinds may cause the car to swerve, especially SUVs and vans. Be prepared to make adjustments in speed and steering to compensate for wind conditions or safely pull over to allow gusty winds to subside.
You may suddenly be hit by a gust of wind as you cross a culvert or bridge, or drive through mountain passes and ravines. Wind gusts occur suddenly and can cause total loss of vehicle control, requiring an adjustment in speed and steering. You may encounter a small gust when being passed by a large truck or bus. Be alert.