As a competent driver with plenty of experience, you likely know what a challenge it can be to drive in inclement conditions.
Heavy rainfall and fog can reduce your vision on the road to just a few yards, drastically decreasing the time you have to react to hazards. In addition, you have to be extra careful with your wheels moving on the slick surface of a road in the rain. And the streets only get more slippery during winter when covered in ice.
Oregon drivers will recognize all of these weather conditions as part of the rotation that affects driving safety in the Pacific Northwest, increasing the likelihood of mishaps for even the most cautious drivers.
When the roads are dangerous, the wisest thing to do is always to stay home. However, if you have to drive in sub-par conditions, you must know how to handle whatever weather may come your way as safely as possible.
Driving in rainy conditions can be a challenge even for those with years of experience behind the wheel. You’re struggling to make out what’s on the other side of your windshield, you’re barely visible to other drivers, and the wet surface of the road is more difficult for your tires to grip.
Again, if you’re not in too much of a hurry, wait out the rain. But if postponing your trip isn’t an option, be sure that your car is in solid enough condition to be driven in the rain.
Take a look at your tires—worn-out treads will reduce your grip on the road even more, which can lead to hydroplaning. Ensure that your headlights and windshield wipers are in working order. When on the road, drive slowly with your headlights on, maintaining several cars’ lengths from the car in front of you.
Oregon experiences exceptionally high amounts of rain between November and February, so be sure to have a set of tires with good tread in place before winter.
If driving in the rain is treacherous, navigating freezing rain is even more so. During the winter months in Oregon, there are times when rain falls and freezes on the road. The temperature fluctuates just enough that the precipitation is neither rain nor snow and is just icy enough to send cars sliding.
Like in regular rain, driving slowly and keeping a reasonable distance from the car ahead of you is one way you can stay safe. Another is to invest in tires that are designed to grip better on slippery surfaces. Because Oregon sees a fair amount of freezing rain, your local authorities will keep abreast of the forecast and hopefully lay salt out on the roads ahead of any major storms to help melt ice.
When you’re checking your headlights and wipers, also be sure to check your wiper fluid. You will need it to continually clear away the freezing rain and keep a sheet of ice from forming on your windshield.
Oregon’s rainy season doesn’t just create challenges on the road’s surface but also in the air around it. Many mornings start with a blanket of thick fog, particularly in coastal areas, which reduces visibility to just a few yards. You will struggle to make out anything in the gray haze, including other cars, debris, and even the road markings.
Things can happen fast in such conditions. When you’re driving in fog, you’ll want to cut your speed and turn your fog lights on significantly. As fog is a common feature of Oregon’s weather patterns, the state has very detailed fog light laws containing information about how you can use your fog lights and headlights to increase your visibility without incapacitating other drivers.
Some parts of Oregon receive more snow than others, but localities surrounding the Cascade Range and the Blue Mountains are usually covered in snow between December and March. If you’re a resident of these parts or will be visiting sometime during the winter months, you need to know how to maneuver in these climes safely. If you live in a less snowy area, it’s important to stay brushed up on the right procedures, just in case.
Before you embark on your journey, make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank. This will help you avoid getting stuck in the middle of nowhere in sub-zero temperatures and ensure you can keep your car running (and heat on) if you need to pull over and wait out a storm.
When you get on the road, you will need to adjust your driving style. Sliding on snow can activate your car’s anti-lock braking system, which will automatically take control of your brakes, alternating pressure to prevent the system from seizing up. If you feel the ABS turn on, ease your foot off the pedals. While you’re in snowy conditions, remember to drive slowly, brake gently, and avoid making any sharp turns.
What to Do in Case of an Accident
Despite your best and safest efforts, you may still be involved in an accident. If you do find yourself dealing with a driving mishap, here are some steps you can take to mitigate your losses and prepare the ground for an insurance claim.
- No matter how minor you think the damage is, stop and assess the extent of it. Make sure to get information from all parties involved, including names, addresses, car models, and license plates. You also want to take detailed notes on how the accident occurred.
- Call the police. Most insurance companies require a police report to process a claim.
- Keep quiet. Avoid discussing the accident with the other party as much as possible, and do not admit liability.
Car Accidents and Your Insurance
The next step after reporting the incident is to begin the process of seeking compensation from your insurer to have repairs done or replace your vehicle altogether.
When dealing with your insurance company, you need to know your rights, so you aren’t taken advantage of after a car accident. If another party was at fault for the accident, their insurance company should pay for any damage to your car. Should the other party admit liability, their insurer will likely settle the claim, and you won’t have to file a claim with your insurance firm.
If the other party doesn’t have insurance, you can seek compensation from your insurer—if you have collision coverage. Your insurance company will also want you to cough up any deductible on your plan before they process your claim.
If the cost of repairing your car is very high, your insurance company will want to write it off as totaled. In this case, they will want to lower the valuation of your totaled car so that they can pay out less. Note that in such a case, Oregon law allows you to dispute that valuation. You will need a personal injury attorney if you choose to go this route.
Be Smart, Drive Safe
Knowing how to drive carefully in all kinds of conditions is essential for your safety and that of others. That being said, accidents happen to the best of us, which is why it’s just as important to understand your insurance. Oregon is a beautiful place with roads that can be deceptively dangerous, and the best way to avoid incidents is to be prepared.