You’re ready to go, but suddenly the heavens open and the rain pours down. Or worse, you wake up in the morning, open the curtains and find that the whole world is covered in snow. Suddenly you realize that you have a fear of driving in the snow or rain. Your heart rate increases just slightly, and you get that anxious feeling of fear of the unexpected.
While we all know these weather conditions happen, not all of us actually experience them while we learn to drive. It is estimated that only 23% of learning drivers are faced with heavy rain during their driving lessons, and only 2.6% of people have faced snow before. Given these statistics, it’s no wonder that many people do not have the confidence right away to deal with these weather conditions. As with everything though, confidence comes with experience, and knowing the potential dangers will only make you a better driver.
Your first instincts will probably make you think twice about your destination and reason to travel in the first place. After all, your anxiety levels are now through the roof, and perhaps avoiding your trip is the best outcome for everyone. Can you postpone your plans? Perhaps those groceries can wait, there might still be pasta hiding in a cupboard somewhere. Your meeting for coffee with a friend can be postponed. You’re both free again same time next week, after all.
It might surprise you that my best advice here is to actually go with your first instincts. Avoiding travel in adverse weather conditions is always the best idea. If you do not really need to be out on the road in bad weather than you shouldn’t put yourself at risk. However, sometimes there are moments where travel cannot be avoided. Kids need to be picked up from school. Your cousin’s upcoming wedding plans cannot be postponed either. There is always the chance to wait it out. It cannot rain forever, right?
So avoiding is not always an option, and there will be times where you are forced out in adverse weather conditions. Being anxious and having a fear of driving in the snow or rain is extremely common, and even the most experienced drivers still have this from time to time.
An important thing to realize here is that there are things you can do about your fears. The most important thing is to stay in control of your vehicle. We have listed some tips and tricks to help you with this. After all, if you are in full control, there is no reason to panic.
Steps to Overcome Fear of Driving in snow
Have confidence in yourself – The first thing I will remind you off is that you are a fully qualified and a licensed driver. You earned your drivers license and didn’t get it for no reason. You have learned the basics of your car, being in control of the vehicle, road rules, anticipation of traffic and many more hurdles. You know your stuff! Of course, there is more to learn but if your examiner didn’t think you were up for the challenge he would not have legally allowed you on the road. Your fear of driving in snow is justified, but you can learn how to deal with it, just like you learned everything else there is to do with driving.
Have confidence in your vehicle – Go through the basics. Is your vehicle road-ready? Confidence in your car is very important to know that your vehicle is capable of handling these adverse weather conditions. Keep your car in a good condition and it will definitely help you drive through the snow. Remember that the vehicle manufacturers knew the vehicle would go through different weather conditions and so they prepared it for such occasions.
Choose for winter tires – If you live in a part of the world that sees snow often, it could be a good idea to choose to go with winter tires during extreme winters. Winter tires can be expensive, but they offer an extremely good grip on the road in snow and wet surfaces. They are considered much better on the road than all-purpose tires. Winter tires are made with softer rubber compound which makes them more flexible than all-purpose tires. They adapt easily to the temperature and allow you to accelerate and brake more effectively.
Get rid of snow, frost or ice from the vehicle – Another way to help put your fear of driving in snow under control is to make sure to clear your vehicle of any snow, frost or ice that may have settled before you drive off. Allow yourself the extra time if it’s been cold overnight, and make sure your vehicle is safe and comfortable in any way you see fit. You may want to scrape off the mirrors, windows and tail and headlights. You want to be able to see other drivers clearly through your window, but also for other drivers to be able to see you clearly. The tail and headlights will ensure that other drivers can see you. You can get rid of the frost or ice in the engine by starting the engine and allowing it put some heat through the car. Circulating air will make this job a lot easier, so make sure the defroster fan is working and clear the windshield from the inside for better visibility.
Watch your speed, acceleration, and deceleration – If the weather is working against you, adjust your driving style. Lower your speed if visibility is lower, or if you feel like you do not have as much grip as you require. During snow, in particular, watch your acceleration and braking. If you are driving at a constant speed, you generally get the most grip. You are more likely to lose control if you brake hard, or accelerate quickly. Constant, slow speed is the way to go when you have less grip from the road surface.
Choose sweaters against winter jackets – This may sound silly at first, but in the winter many people choose to wear heavy winter jackets, and this may not be a great idea. Heavy and bulky clothing like winter jackets can limit your arms from moving freely and can get in the way. Before your journey, start the engine to get the car warm, and toss the winter jacket aside for the sweater while driving. You might also want to reconsider those thick boots you have on. You don’t want any discomfort when applying the brake or gas pedals. You can always keep them inside the vehicle and drive with your normal shoes. Driving will be so much easier!
If everything else fails, choose public transport – You should check for the severity of the snow before driving, especially if you are afraid of driving under such circumstances. If it has been snowing for days and the roads are piled up with snow, you may want to stay indoors until something is done about it. And if you must go out, take public transport and let the professionals do their job.
How to Overcome Fear of Driving in the Rain
Keep your distance – Reducing your speeds aside, it’s important to look at the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. In any normal road condition, the rule of thumb is to drive 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. When it is raining heavily, your brake length increases hugely. It’s important to keep extra space and increase this distance up to 4 seconds. Should anything unexpected happen in front of you, you will definitely have enough time for an emergency stop of a corrective maneuver.
Resist the urge to brake heavily – One of the biggest things people are scared of when it comes to fear of driving in the snow or rain is losing control of the vehicle due to not having enough grip. In the snow, most people find this easy to understand. Snow is slippery, so naturally, you have less grip. Not everyone always understands this when it comes to rain. If the road surface is wet, you need to be mindful of aquaplaning. Aquaplaning happens when the water on the road surface builds up under your tire which makes your vehicle to float. At this point, the tyres lose contact with the tarmac and as you are driving you will be able to feel the vehicle become unresponsive to your steering.
Do not make the mistake of hitting the brake pedals quickly as this will cause the vehicle to skid. Instead, stay calm and stop stepping on the accelerator. Take your speed back slowly, while going in a straight line and your vehicle should slow down to a speed where you can regain control.
Be aware of weather conditions – As with any kind of anxiety and fear, knowledge is power. If you know more about the potential dangers, then prepare yourself. You can plan your route adequately, take extra time if it’s needed, and avoid certain road situations. Look out for weather reports to find out the severity, length, and area of the rain. Are there any weather warnings out that prohibit you from traveling, or is it still deemed safe to go out onto the road? Make sure you check what is happening out there.
Avoid driving towards the side of the road – Most people get used to positioning their car towards the side of the road to leave as much space with oncoming traffic as possible. Sometimes you may be forced to drive on the side of the road because you may be on a one-way narrow lane. All roads are designed to let the water run off to the side. The middle of the road, also known as the crown, is sitting higher than the sides to help let the rainwater naturally run off. For this reason, it is safer to stay towards the middle of the road. Less water on the road surface means you will have more grip.
Put on your head and tail lights – A common misconception is that you head and tail lights are just for driving at night. But you want other drivers to be able to see you when you are driving especially when it’s raining and vision may be somewhat impaired. In some countries, however, you have to always have your head and tail lights on by law. Do not be afraid to use your lights. It’s important to be able to be seen, Just make sure you do not use your full beam as you could blind other drivers, or yourself through the reflection off the moisture in the air.
Pull over when the rain becomes heavy – Don’t feel safe? Is the rain increasing to the point where you can’t see out of your windscreen and your wipers simply cannot keep up? Just pull over and wait it out. There is no shame in staying safe. Every driver at one point or another will be in the situation where driving on is just impossible. Do not be afraid to make the decision to suspend your journey until the heavy rain wears off. Usually, if rain is so heavy, it won’t last too long anyway.
Understanding Your Fear of Driving in the Snow or Rain
Armed with the tips above, hopefully you can put your fear of driving in the snow or rain at ease. The biggest lesson here is that being safe and staying safe should always be your number one priority. You want to overcome your fears and conquer the roads in any road condition. The big lesson to learn here is to prepare for your journey, watch the weather reports and take your time. Believe it or not, your fear sometimes comes from a rational place and it’s important to recognize potential dangers. Only by understanding risk you can overcome fear.