Don’t be caught off guard by gusts.
High winds can be very dangerous when you’re driving. They can blow trees into the path of your vehicle, move your car on the road and—in drought conditions or the desert southwest—create blinding dust storms, which can lead to multi-vehicle pileups. So always check your local weather forecast, and if there are any high-wind, dust-storm or sandstorm advisories, it’s best to stay off the road. But if you must drive, take note of these tips.
IN HIGH WINDS:
Anytime you feel a gale pushing your car, slow down. The faster you drive, the farther off course you might be pushed by a sudden gust before regaining vehicle control. Keep both hands on the wheel and be ready for buffeting winds.
BE WARY OF OTHER VEHICLES
Gusts can blow other vehicles into your path, especially high-sided ones like RVs, campers, trucks, buses or trailers being towed, so keep your distance from other drivers to give yourself some buffer room.
TURN ON YOUR HEADLAMPS
Combined with darkened skies from thunderstorms and flying debris, strong winds can radically reduce visibility, so turn on your headlamps if they’re needed.
WATCH OUT FOR TREES
In strong winds, trees can be your worst enemy. Look out for partially fallen trees and branches hanging over the road. Keep in mind that small twigs and sticks in the road could be warning signs of a fallen tree or large branch around the bend.
IN DUST STORMS:
PULL OVER, OFF THE PAVEMENT
If you are driving and see a dust cloud up ahead, it’s very important not to drive into it, even if you see other vehicles continuing to do so. Dust storms are often blinding—and you could barrel directly into the back of another car. Instead, slow down as safely as possible, then pull completely off the pavement (not on the highway shoulder) to try to avoid getting into a chain-reaction collision. Find a safe area to park far away from traffic, trees, power lines or any other tall objects that could fall on your vehicle.
TURN OFF ALL YOUR LIGHTS
Turn off all your lights, even your hazards and dome light, because in a dust storm the beams from parked vehicles can look deceptively like moving traffic, and other cars could drive into you.
ENGAGE THE PARKING BRAKE
For the same reason, set your parking brake, then take your foot off the brake pedal so other drivers do not try to follow your brake lights.
STAY BUCKLED UP
Keep yourself buckled up, in case your vehicle is hit, and wait for the storm to pass.
IN HIGH WINDS AND DUST STORMS:
STEER CLEAR OF DOWNED POWER LINES
After any extreme winds, be on the lookout for downed power lines, because they might still be live—and the ground around power lines can be electrified for up to 35 feet. Do not drive over a power line, because even if it is not energized, it could entangle your vehicle.
LIVE POWER LINE? CALL 911
If your car comes into contact with a downed power line, stay inside, because the road around you might be energized. Be very careful not to touch any metal areas inside your vehicle. Call 911, but make sure others stay away from your car.
In the end, preparation is key. Stay on top of the weather reports and keep off the road if necessary. If there are high winds or dust storms in the forecast, give yourself more time to get to your destination and let your loved ones know when you expect to arrive. Driving cautiously could be the best protection for yourself and your vehicle.
By Jordan Mendoza