Natural disasters can easily cause extreme damage to property and infrastructure. What we don’t often think about is their effect on drivers. Harsh weather makes make driving conditions very dangerous – even deadly – whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, winter storm, tornado or even a wildfire.
According to the U.S. DOT, Federal Highway Administration, as many as 21% of all vehicle crashes and 16% of crash fatalities are due to adverse weather, natural disasters or wet pavement conditions. On average, nearly 5,000 people are killed and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year.1 It is critical that those on the road are prepared for the severity of these events and their aftermath.
What can you do to prepare?
Thanks to enhanced technology and response times, most natural disasters today are preceded by multiple warnings that facilitate preparation. Warnings give people a chance to better understand the severity of the situation and its location, even allowing some to potentially alter driving plans accordingly.
Consider the following steps to navigating safely if you’re out on the roads:
- Pay attention to weather and road condition reports. This is a driver’s first line of defense during and after a natural disaster. If the roads are treacherous, pull over to a safe location to wait until the roads clear.
- Maintain a full tank of gas. During or even after a natural disaster, finding an open and operable gas station isn’t always easy. Don’t take the risk of being stranded on the side of the road.
- Check the depth of standing water whenever possible. Do not enter areas where the possibility exists that your vehicle could become inoperable or submerged.
- Always assume that all downed power lines are live or active. Do not come into contact with them or anything they are touching.
- Ensure that critical vehicle systems are in working condition. This includes tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and lights - at all times. Schedule regular preventative maintenance on your vehicle.
- During lightning, avoid touching metal. Should your car be struck by lightning, the metal exterior will transmit the current to the ground. Wait to exit until you’re certain the current has dissipated. A greater risk is if lightning hits a tree or power line, which could send obstacles in your way.
- In wet conditions, leave a six-second gap between you and the next car. Never use cruise control during a storm. Should you hydroplane, let go of the gas and steer straight until you gain control of the vehicle again.
- If your vehicle gets stuck in water, abandon it. Do so immediately and head for higher ground. If your car is stuck, there’s a good chance the flooding could get worse.
- Don’t rely on technology. Cell service and GPS may be down in affected areas. Consider obtaining paper maps of an area if you’re not familiar with it. Know that it’s very likely that traffic lights will be down, and remember to practice safe driving, especially where signs and lights are out.
- Pack an emergency supply kit. Keep the following emergency supplies in your vehicle at all times:
- Rain poncho
- Charged fire extinguisher
- Dry food
- Dry change of clothing
- Spare fuses
- Windshield washer fluid
- First aid kit
Contact your HUB insurance advisor to help navigate any claims during and after a natural disaster.