Safe driving should be a priority anytime you hit the road, but when you have to drive in a natural disaster, staying safe takes on a whole new meaning. Of course, it’s best to avoid driving in hazardous conditions if you can. Staying home isn’t always an option, however, especially if you’re under an evacuation order. Here’s what you need to do to prepare.
- Pack an Emergency Kit
Having an emergency kit in your car is always a good idea because you never know when a storm or some other hazard can pop up. Disaster preparedness experts tell Business Insider that a good car emergency kit should include a flashlight and batteries, an extra cell phone charger, bottled water, and nonperishable food.
It’s also a good idea for any driver to make sure they have a reliable smartphone with good coverage. Not only do you want to be confident that you could make an emergency call, but it can also be extremely helpful to have GPS access. If you haven’t upgraded your phone recently, it may be worth checking out the newest models. You can usually find mobile phone deals and plan to keep the cost of upgrading from getting too expensive.
- Prepare Your Vehicle
Being out in a natural disaster is something you probably can’t anticipate very far in advance, but you do want to prepare your vehicle as much as possible. The possibility of being caught in bad weather is one reason to stay on top of routine maintenance, including making sure your brakes, wipers, lights, and other essential systems are in good working order. It’s also a good idea to always keep your gas tank at least half full.
You should also take a look at your car insurance to make sure you any damage from a natural disaster would be covered. In most cases, you should be covered if you have comprehensive insurance, but it’s still a good idea to look into your policy to be sure. If you only have basic insurance, you may not be covered in a natural disaster.
- Drive for the Weather You’re Facing
A good general rule when driving in inclement weather is to go slow and keep extra distance between yourself and the car in front of you. The CDC also recommends being vigilant in case road signs are missing or stop lights are out. In this case, the best course of action is to treat any intersection as a four-way stop.
In addition to these general rules, make sure you’re familiar with the best strategies for the type of disaster you’re in. For example, in a flood situation, the Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends staying aware of weather reports and knowing the difference between a flood watch, which means a flood is possible, and a flood warning, which means flooding is occurring or will soon. If there is a possibility of flash flooding, get to a higher elevation right away. However, if you approach an area of standing water, you always want to turn around, as driving into even a small amount of standing water can be disastrous.
If you live in an area where tornadoes are common, know that your best bet is to seek shelter. However, if you can’t find shelter and are in your vehicle, you may be able to drive at a right angle to the tornado in order to get away from it. If that isn’t possible, you want to park off the road and find a low-lying area. Along the same lines, anyone who lives in a cold climate should know how to drive safely if you’re caught in a snow or ice storm, especially how to handle a situation where your car starts to slide.
Having to drive in a hazardous situation can certainly be scary. Of course, that’s normal, but doing whatever you can to keep calm can go a long way towards staying safe. Avoiding a natural disaster is always best, but for those times when there’s no other option, following these tips will keep you as safe and prepared as possible.