Driving in Washington State comes with many responsibilities.
On top of that list is safety — specifically, yours and your passengers.
Now, driving always comes with some risks.
After all, there are lots of different Washington road conditions, such as low visibility, floods, slippery surfaces, curves, and the list goes on…
You must know how to safely drive through these.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to teach you here.
We’ll show you how to drive safely in the Washington road condition hazards.
So buckle up and let’s go!
How to Drive Safely Through Curvy Road Conditions
What makes driving on a straight road easier?
For one, you can see further in front of you. Oncoming traffic is more visible, giving you enough time to react accordingly.
For another, you can travel at a faster speed.
Both of those aren’t possible when you’re driving on roads that curve.
You’ll usually see warning signs requiring you to slow down as you approach it. But even if there isn’t one, reducing your speed is an excellent way to avoid losing traction.
If you go too fast on a curve, it could lead to disastrous outcomes. You may begin to skid, and if you don’t regain control of your car, you’ll likely end up in an accident.
So what’s the lesson?
Always slow down before entering the curve. This way, you won’t have to use your brakes (that’s what causes skidding).
Also, since you can’t see oncoming traffic, never pass another vehicle in the opposite lane.
How to Drive Safely in Slippery Road Conditions
Slippery roads are a by-product of snow, sleet, and rain. These make roads more hazardous to drivers.
There’s less grip and higher chances of losing control of your vehicle.
And we’re not just talking about heavy downpours.
Light rain on a hot day can be as dangerous too.
The heat causes the oil on the road to rise to the surface. Combining this with rainwater makes the road super slippery for the first few minutes (and remains this way until the oil washes away).
So when it’s raining or the road’s wet, it’s best to reduce your speed to around 10 mph slower.
If the road’s packed with snow, here are some things you can do:
- Reduce your speed to half.
- Switch to snow tires or use chains.
If the road is icy, reduce your speed to a crawl.
OR, if you can avoid going out in these conditions, the better.
However, if you must drive, ensure that you take the following precautions:
- Use studded tires (you can use retractable ones year-round as long as you only use the studs from November 1 to March 31).
- Watch out for shady spots — these tend to have frozen patches on cold, wet days.
- Exercise more caution when the temperature nears the freezing point. It causes the ice to become wet, making the road extra slippery.
How to Drive Safely in Flooded Road Conditions
First, look for an alternative route if you encounter a flooded roadway. Sometimes, taking a detour may be more inconvenient but ultimately safer.
Avoid going through moving water — it may cause debris to travel downstream (and hit your car). Worse is if the water’s moving fast — it can even sweep your vehicle away.
If you must drive through a flood, ensure the water is less than four inches deep.
Keep a slow speed so you don’t create bow waves, and don’t forget to test your brakes as soon as you get to the other side.
How to Drive Safely Through Traffic Road Conditions
The more congested the road becomes, the more likely accidents will happen.
This is why you need to be extra careful during traffic hours.
So here are some safety tips to navigate your way through traffic…
- Maintain the same pace as other vehicles.
Driving faster than other cars requires you to pass them. That’s fine (as long as you do it safely), but not sustainable.
If other vehicles suddenly switch lanes, you might collide with them. Worse, if you’re traveling on a two-way street — an oncoming vehicle may appear, and you won’t have enough time to avoid it.
However, driving slower than most vehicles isn’t safe either — you may begin obstructing traffic flow.
If you’re uncomfortable with speeding up, consider using a different road (one that allows lower speed).
If that’s not an option, move to the shoulder and stop. Let the vehicles behind you pass before rejoining traffic.
- Carefully enter and exit traffic.
Use your signals and avoid speeding up or slowing down when merging with traffic.
This is particularly true when you’re coming from an on-ramp — if you stop at the end, the vehicles behind you might crash into you. They won’t expect you to stop or slow down and might not react in time.
Sometimes, only one vehicle can merge at a time. Slow down while you’re still on the ramp. This way, you’ll have more time to speed up before entering.
Continue maintaining your speed on the main road, even if you intend to exit traffic. Once you’re on the exit ramp (assuming you pass one), then you can slow down.
- Dealing with slow-moving traffic.
Some vehicles, such as farm equipment, roadway maintenance, or animal-drawn vehicles travel slower than regular cars. Try to spot these early so you can switch to an adjacent lane (if you want to maintain your speed) or slow down bit by bit.
How to Drive Safely through Trouble Spot Road Conditions
Let’s define trouble spots as any location restricting your maneuvering ability (typically because of people and vehicles gathering in the area).
Here are some situations that fall within this definition:
- Downtown areas, shopping centers, and parking lots
- Rush hour
- Narrow bridges and tunnels
- Toll plazas
- Residential streets
- Parks, playgrounds, and schools
- Railroad crossings
- Work Zones
Slowing down is your safest option whenever you find yourself facing these situations.
How to Drive Safely with Reduced Visibility Road Conditions
Your vision is one of your best tools when driving.
That’s why reduced visibility is very hazardous to motorists.
Here are some safety driving tips for several situations where you might not have good visibility:
- Night driving: Always turn on your headlights as it lets you see about 400 feet ahead.
- Driving through rain, snow, or fog: Slow down to 30 mph if you cannot see more than 200 feet ahead. If it’s raining too hard and visibility remains low despite your wipers, pull over and stop until it weakens.
- Driving on hills and curves: Adjust your speed if you cannot see over the crest of a hill or around a curve. You’ll never know what’s on the other side (or around the corner), even if you regularly drive in that area.
- Driving beside parked vehicles: Don’t stay too close to cars parked near a curb or on the side of the road. These block your view, and you may not see people walking between them until it’s too late.
One excellent strategy to use is the Sight Distance Rule.
If you want to know if you’re driving too fast for the conditions, pick a visible object and start counting (use one one-thousand, two one-thousand, etc.). If you pass it before you reach four one-thousand, you’re going too fast.
The Wrap Up
As a driver, you’re sure to experience one, or all, of these Washington road conditions.
So it’s best to know how to keep safe.
Always keep these safety driving tips in mind — you’ll never know when you’ll need them.