Safety DOT

Seasonal advice in the South: Adverse Driving Conditions in the winter

In Texas, our rainy season is from December to May. And, that rain falls differently depending where you are in Texas. In Houston, it’s regular and normal (with the exception of hurricanes—then all bets are off). In north Texas, the rain follows more of a deluge pattern, oversaturating roadways, ditches, and gullies so that hydroplaning is a very real risk.

This rain becomes more problematic when it’s compounded with the cold and creates sleet or black ice on the roads. Texas does not use rock salt on the highways like the Northeast, so in cases of extreme cold, high overpasses and bridges may remain frozen for days. Additionally, for many Texas drivers, this is the once or twice a year that they drive in icy conditions, so they often ignore common sense precautions.

Safety in Winter Driving Conditions

Prepare for winter weather. In Texas, chains are illegal on major roadways, so this is not a necessary precaution. However, now is the time to check the windshield wipers, clean the windshield from large smudges which may prevent a clear field of view, make sure the weather stripping is sound, and regularly check the air in the tires.

Be aware of other drivers. With the influx of drivers from California in recent months, as well as the lack of familiarity with winter driving, other drivers are often more dangerous on the roads than the weather conditions themselves. You’ll see the timid driver, going so slow that he or she is a hazard, and you’ll be passed by someone else who thinks the speed limit applies regardless of ice or sleet. Be aware and yield. Defensive driving is your best bet.

Know the alternate routes. Daily in the big cities in Texas there are motor vehicle accidents. If you have an alternate route, or two or three, you can avoid the pile ups and the danger that comes from suddenly stopping vehicles.

Be safe this winter. Driver carefully, defensively, and alertly.

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