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How to Drive Safely Through a Summer Thunderstorm

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For certain parts of the US, summer means almost daily thunderstorms in the afternoon. These are usually brief but intense and can come on without warning.

If you find yourself caught in a sudden downpour while driving, don’t panic. Instead, follow these tips.

Pay Attention to Visibility

The biggest risk during a summer storm is the loss of visibility. If you can’t see clearly even with the wipers on full blast, then it is not safe to drive.

Make sure that your wipers are in good repair. Get the blades changed whenever they begin to wear out–not when they are completely worn and no longer functional.

When to Use Hazard Lights

Many drivers flick on their hazard lights during bad weather. The idea is that, since they’re going slower than the speed limit, the blinking lights let other drivers know what the deal is. However, during a storm when everyone is going slowly and visibility is poor, hazard lights might actually do more harm than good.

In this scenario, you should only use your hazard lights when you have pulled over on the side of the road and stopped moving.

Watch Where You Park

Your instinct may be to pull off the road until the storm passes. While that’s not a bad idea, in theory, you need to be careful of where you weather the storm.

Parking under trees or telephone poles is a bad idea during a storm. Not only could they be struck by lightning, but they’re also potential hazards in high winds. The absolute last thing you want is for a downed limb to land on your vehicle.

Ducking under a highway overpass is also a poor choice. If the storm develops into a tornado or flash flooding occurs, you would be at high risk.

Stay in the Car

If you do decide to pull over, stay in your car! It’s the safest place unless you can reach a permanent structure, such as a store or your home, within a few seconds. Otherwise, sit tight until the storm passes.

Even if the vehicle is struck by lightning, the charge will travel through the frame and into the ground. However, don’t touch anything metal in the car’s cabin while you wait for the storm to end.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown

In the event of a flash flood, it’s best to get off the road as quickly as possible. If you come to a part of the road that is completely covered with water, never drive through it–even if your house is just on the other side.

Instead, turn around and either use an alternate route or find someplace else to shelter.

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