Most of what you do while driving depends on what you see. To be a good driver, you need to know what to look for, where to look, and how to adjust to possible problems. The single biggest contributor to crashes is failing to identify a risk. You must look down the road, to the sides, and behind your vehicle. You must also be alert for unexpected events. You must use your headlights at night and at other times when it’s hard to see. You must be alert and pay attention to what is going on around you.
Virginia law requires motorists to use headlights during inclement weather such as rain, fog, snow or sleet when visibility is reduced to 500 feet. You must use your headlights whenever you use your windshield wipers as a result of bad weather.
Driving becomes hazardous when visibility is reduced or when the road surface is covered with rain, snow or ice. Reducing your speed should be your first response to decreased visibility and dangerous road conditions. Increase your space cushion by doubling your normal following distance (refer to the Maintaining a Space Cushion section for more information). Turn on your headlights.
At sunset, as soon as light begins to fade, turn on your headlights to make your vehicle more visible to others. You must use headlights from sunset to sunrise. Use low-beams when driving in cities and towns, except on streets where there is no lighting. Switch to low-beams whenever you meet oncoming traffic to avoid blinding the other driver. When following, use low-beams whenever you are within 200 feet of the vehicle ahead. Use high-beam headlights on highways, unless another vehicle is within 500 feet coming toward you.
If the highbeams of an oncoming car are on, avoid looking directly at the bright lights. Glance toward the side of the road, then look quickly ahead to determine the other vehicle’s position. Keep doing this until you have passed the other vehicle. Even if the other driver does not dim his headlights, do not turn on your high-beam headlights.
Fog reflects light and can reflect your own headlights back into your eyes. Use low-beam headlights in heavy fog and look for road edge markings to guide you. Even light fog reduces visibility and your ability to judge distances, so slow down.
Driving in heavy rain can be as hazardous as driving in fog, especially if the wind is blowing. Other vehicles to the rear and in blind spot areas are especially difficult to see when it’s raining. Use your low-beam headlights to see and be seen. In light rain or drizzle, turn on your windshield wipers to improve visibility; using wipers for sprinkles may smear the windshield and make it harder to see, so make sure you have windshield washer fluid.
When rain begins, during the first half-hour, roads are more likely to be slippery due to oil on the road surface mixing with water.
Remove snow and ice from your entire car, including the roof, hood and rear of the vehicle, before you start driving. Snow and ice left on the car can fly off when the vehicle is moving and create a hazard for other motorists. Be sure to clear all of your windows, mirrors and front and rear lights of snow or ice so you can see and communicate with other drivers.
Equip your car with all-weather snow tires or chains to help prevent skidding and reduce stopping distance.
Driving on packed snow is similar to driving on ice. When you brake, apply the brakes gently. Slow down before stopping or turning.
When driving on slippery surfaces and you need to stop, apply brakes gently. You have the most traction and control when the front tires are rolling. Therefore, your vehicle will respond more effectively to steering while moving more slowly than hard braking.
Watch for ice on bridges and in shady areas. Bridges freeze before other road surfaces.