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Thar She Blows! How to Drive Safely Under Windy Conditions

- March 3, 2017 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

Recently, I was driving back from a meeting and got to encounter the “thrill” of not only rain, fog and traffic, but high cross winds. I’m not going to dive into detail about what high winds are since there is plenty of information on the internet (its due to change from a high to low-pressure systems or vice versa, BTW). However, it got me thinking that as the seasons change this is going to be more of an occurrence (along with thunderstorms, hail, etc.).

We often think of high wind damage as downed power lines, overturned trees, and damage to homes and businesses. However, the hazards while driving can and are often just as prevalent and damaging. We might not think of them as much because we may be more used to it. Gusty winds can pose even more of a hazard since you can’t react until after you encounter it.

When driving in windy condition how you drive depends on not only the type of vehicle but the type of road as well. A flat interstate with a strong side wind poses a different hazard than a hilly area or a mountainous area with canyons.

When driving during a windy time take these things into consideration:

  • Light vehicle or high profile vehicles are more apt to encounter issues as far as staying in their lane. Approach them with caution and be ready to have to react if you must pass or are being passed as they may suddenly swerve into your lane without warning due to the wind.
  • Use caution when driving under bridges and over passes.  You are fighting the wind, and like magic, it’s gone as you enter and reappears as you come out the other side. This can cause you to swerve if you aren’t prepared.
  • Watch for debris blown across the roadway, or out of the back of a pickup truck.
  • If traveling through a construction zone, watch out for blown over traffic signs and barriers.
  • Avoid using your phone, eating, drinking or other distractions in windy conditions so you can focus on maintaining control of your vehicle and staying in your lane or reacting if another driver doesn’t.
  • Use caution and think of the wind direction when on on/off ramps especially if road conditions are slick. Enter to fast with a strong wind and a slick road, and you may end up off the side of the ramp.

Stay alert and focus on the task at hand – getting from point “A” to point “B” safe!


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