Teen Gains New Perspective a Year after Car Crash

Alex Hickey, 19, faces surgery to begin reconstructing scarred thighs, the last outward signs of a year-old wreck that occurred when the driver she was riding with lost control on a wet road. She suffered a broken disk in her neck, a broken right femur, a broken left hand and a few broken teeth, four contusions, short term memory loss and a gash in her head that still sloughs off bits of glass; a knee has nerve damage and a foot dropped.
Source: AJC.com

Safe Driving Lesson Learned

You should always drive with caution whenever there is a chance that your traction will be reduced, whether the roads are slick with rainwater or with spilled oil or fuel. If you find yourself driving on slick roads, here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Gradually reduce your speed.
  • Do not brake hard or suddenly on wet or slippery pavement.
  • Avoid sudden acceleration.
  • When you change your speed or direction, do so smoothly and gradually rather than sharply.
  • Increase your following distance to allow more time to stop.
  • If you approach a sharp curve or a hill, grip the steering wheel firmly and give yourself time to slow down.
  • If you start to hydroplane, stay calm. Don’t brake suddenly. Take your foot off the accelerator until the tires gain traction with the road, then brake gently.

After a storm, be aware of standing water. Do not drive through large bodies of standing water as it can affect brake performance and the vehicle’s electrical system and can cause engine failure, which could result in costly repairs. If the standing water is concentrated on one portion of the road and only one side of the vehicle goes through the water, the vehicle will tend to pull in that direction. The force of the pull is dependent on the depth of the water and the speed of the vehicle.

As you approach standing water, lift your foot off the gas pedal and check your rearview mirror for vehicles that may be following you too closely. Remember:

  • Slow down before hitting the water.
  • Turn wipers on before hitting the water.
  • Tap brakes as you exit.
  • Use caution in checking outside mirrors. Rain can distort or obliterate images.

Do not drive through standing water if you do not know how deep it is.

When roads are wet, stopping distance increases. When braking, friction between your tires and the surface of the roadway affect your stopping distance. Wet roads have less friction and increase the distance it takes you to stop.

Heavy rain reduces your ability to see and be seen. In the daytime, turn on your windshield wipers, low beam headlights and if needed, your windshield defroster. Heavy rain at night can almost blind you. Driving the speed limit under these conditions is too fast. It is always best to reduce your speed limit in this scenario. In rainy weather, the hazard of reduced visibility is compounded by reduced traction. Traction is the grip between your tires and the road. As the moisture reduces friction, tires lose their grip. The distance needed to stop a car increases and the driver has less control of the vehicle. The danger of reduced traction is greatest within the first half hour of rainfall. At that time, the pavement becomes especially slippery, when the rain mixes with the oil and the dust on the surface of the road.

This post is an excerpt from a recent edition of the Safe Driving Teen Monthly Bulletin. Each month the National Safety Commission publishes the bulletin for teens and parents designed to improve teen driver behavior, attitude, skills, and experience. Subscription Details