Winter Weather Affects New Drivers


Aly McGinnes

With winter fast approaching, rainy and stormy weather is making its approach to Western Washington, affecting the roads and the safety of those who drive.

Officer John Berg has been a part of the police force for 22 years and has seen many accidents, many of them being caused by people not knowing what to do in stormy winter weather, especially when they start to hydroplane.

“The faster you go the easier it is to hydroplane. All that it is doing is getting enough water to fill all of the tread in your tire to make it basically like a flat surface. The pressure of all of that water can lift your tire off the road. If this happens, get off the gas. You do not necessarily need to brake, that is what gets people into trouble, because they were going too fast to begin with,” Berg said.

According to Berg, the biggest problems people have while driving is monitoring their speed and having appropriate following distance while paying attention to the road.

“Slowing down and paying attention are the two biggest things. In the winter, it is darker, which reduces your line of sight. It also reduces your depth perception. All of those factor into slowing down, especially when you add rain, snow or sleet,” Berg said.

Junior Sarah Barbee will be getting her license in February and is currently practicing to drive with her family. Although Barbee is not scared of driving in the rain, she is worried about other drivers.

“I do not fear myself driving but I fear other people making stupid decisions when I drive. I am worried about someone cutting me off and what would happen if I am not able to have that quick reflex to brake,” Barbee said.

Another new driver, sophomore Bayley McKinney has hydroplaned before when driving. It terrified her but she knew what to do to get out of the situation.

“I was going down the hill and it was really wet and rainy. I guess I was going a little too fast. I hydroplaned in the back and I was freaking out. Even though it was for only seconds, I felt terrified. My car went one way so I steered the other and then I kept driving,” McKinney said.

For the upcoming winter months, you may need to give yourself extra time to preheat your car to allow your windows to be clear to see out of. Also, it never hurts to have a car emergency kit in case you happen to get into a bad situation.

“Before going out into the rain. You should turn on your lights, before you forget. You should also scrape off the ice from your windows. It also helps to make sure your car is clean. Chains or winter tires could help you too,” McKinney said.

Overall, if you go out ready to drive and it is raining, make sure to give yourself plenty of following room and watch your speed. However, if you do feel yourself start to hydroplane do not panic.

“If you get in a bad situation, make sure you have both hands on the steering wheel. The force of the water could try to pull you one way or the other. So grip the wheel hard. Let off the gas and steer through it,” Berg said.