Changing Seasons: Tips for Spring Driving in Texas
Springtime in Texas often brings sunshine, blooming wildflowers, and average temperatures in the 60s and 70s. At first glance, it’s hard to find much to complain about, but spring weather in Texas can also swing from a calm, balmy day to thunder and rain in a heartbeat, which gives rise to a famous Texas saying: “If you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes.”
Sudden thunderstorms often roam Texas in the spring, moving in “squall lines” and dropping huge quantities of precipitation. In the West half of Texas especially, one or two thunderstorms can often account for the entire month’s rainfall. These rainstorms can also bring on very slippery conditions, which are always dangerous for drivers: According to the Federal Highway Administration, rain accounted for 46 percent of weather-related crashes between 2004 and 2013, while wet pavement in general accounted for 73 percent.
Rain and wet pavement compromise your car’s handling and also its braking capabilities, sometimes quadrupling the normal required stopping distance for a vehicle. Besides the dangers of slick pavement, large puddles can also cause your tires to lose traction or “hydroplane,” which involves a total loss of traction when your tires “surf” along a cushion of water.
More Potential Hazards
Besides spring thunderstorms and wet pavement, here are some other hazards you might encounter while traveling in Texas in the spring:
The prolific volume of Texas spring rainstorms means that they sometimes cause flooding. In November 2015, for example, a band of storms flooded the Houston area and caused six deaths. State authorities in Texas will sometimes close flooded areas with gates and roadblocks. Never drive around these barriers, as doing so could get you caught in an area with dangerous flood waters.
Yes, it can – and does – hail in Texas, especially in the spring. In fact, a storm system that produced baseball-sized hail rampaged through North Texas in November 2015. Even small hailstorms can shatter windshields and cause auto body damage.
Road wear and tear.
Texas does experience some snow and freezing conditions in the winter, and just like everywhere else, the state’s roads often suffer during the spring thaw. As snow thaws in warmer temperatures, it melts and seeps into cracks in the road, which softens the pavement; if that water re-freezes again, it expands in volume and can open up cracks in the road. Road crews often can’t keep up in the early part of the spring, so watch out for extra potholes during this time of year. A deep pothole can do serious damage to your car’s wheels, suspension, and alignment.
Texas is known for its diverse wildlife, which is great – as long as they’re not darting out in front of your fast-moving car. Hibernating animals often return to activity in the spring, while others enter their mating season. You’ll likely see more animals crossing streets or hunting for food this time of year, which means you should pay extra attention to your surroundings as you drive. Watch out especially for deer, which are most active at dawn and dusk and can run suddenly and at high speed into a car’s path.
Pedestrian and cyclist activity.
Spring also means people are ready to dust off their walking shoes and bicycles. Again, stay aware of your surroundings and always check your mirrors and blind spots for bicycle traffic. Cyclists should always ride responsibly and follow the rules of the road, but those that don’t can be a danger to themselves and others, so you need to stay alert.
Some Tips to Stay Safe
While all those hazards make spring driving sound like a gauntlet, you should be able to travel safely and enjoy the mostly-temperate Texas spring weather if you follow a few simple tips.
Slow down, stay alert, and drive cautiously. The first spring rains can make for very slippery conditions as the fresh downpour mixes with winter mud and grime. Drive at a speed appropriate for conditions, and prepare for the extra stopping distance that wet weather requires. You can also adhere to the following tips to make sure you stay safe on the road:
- Check your lights and wipers. Prepare for rainstorms by checking all of your car’s lights and making sure your windshield wipers are in good working order (wiper blades should usually be replaced at least once a year). You’ll be thankful you checked on these items when you get caught a low-visibility downpour.
- Check your tire pressure. Seasonal changes in temperature and pressure can deflate your tires. Properly inflated tires help your car handle better, improve your gas mileage, and can even reduce the damage from running over a pothole.
- Know the side effects of any medication(s) you take. This might not seem obvious at first, but spring often means hay fever season for allergy sufferers. Some over-the-counter allergy medications contain sedating antihistamines that can induce drowsiness, so make sure you read the side effects of any allergy (or other) medication you take before getting on the road.
- Share the road. Texas law dictates that bicyclists have the same rights and duties as other vehicle operators, so they’re entitled to occupy Texas roadways just like any car or truck. While cyclists generally ride near the curb, they have the right by law to take up the entire lane for safety reasons. If you’re temporarily stuck in a lane behind a cyclist, remember that they’d probably prefer to be in a bike lane too.
Call Hossley & Embry if You’ve Been Injured
Even if you take the perfect precautions for spring driving, accidents can still happen, especially due to another driver’s negligence. If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Hossley & Embry at (866) 522-9265 and take advantage of our attorneys’ dedication and years of experience in personal injury law. We offer free confidential consultations so you can evaluate your legal options and best course of action.
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