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Multi-Car AccidentAmerica is the birthplace of car culture. We love our cars and we love driving. While our choice to rely on cars over public transportation is a cornerstone of our personal freedom, it also means we take the risk of driving in bad weather more often than our friends in other countries where mass transit is more common.

The infographic below summarizes the ten largest pileup accidents ever recorded. Half of them occurred in the United States – two even happened on the same Michigan highway – and bad weather was a contributing factor in every case.

We’ve all dealt with the challenges of driving in inclement weather – it's not something anyone jumps in the car and goes looking for. Perhaps you've got to be somewhere in a timely manner for business or your weekend at the ski resort ended in the middle of a nasty storm. If you make the decision to hit the road when the weather is bad, there are a few things you should take into consideration.

Drive at an Appropriate Speed

Speed limits mean nothing when the weather turns nasty. The sign might say 65, but that doesn't mean you should challenge yourself to achieve it. Traffic law is very clear that you should drive the appropriate speed for the road at any time and use the speed of responsible drivers around you to gauge your own speed. You can be ticketed for traveling at excessive speed in poor weather even if you're not exceeding the speed limit.

Remember when driving in snow that traction can change quickly. If you have room, slow to a safe speed and stop to see whether your car slides. This is the safest way to check your traction. In the thick fog associated with more pileups than any other weather condition, pay close attention to drivers ahead of you. If you can't see them, it's best to keep things slow but steady.

Don't Tailgate

There's a reason tailgating is illegal, and that is because keeping a safe following distance is one of the best ways to avoid an accident. The techniques discussed above about staying safe in fog and snow both rely on your ability to wisely judge following distance. This means at least two seconds between your car and the one in front of you whenever possible. If you are in thick fog and need to be closer to a lead car to see their taillights, make sure you're doing it at a safe speed. If they are traveling too fast for comfort, consider choosing another car to follow.

Keep Moving

While excessive speed is the fastest way to get into an accident, coming to a complete halt is no safer if you're in the middle of the road. Just like traveling at inappropriate speed for the conditions, this is a fineable offense.

Pull Over if the Weather Is Too Bad

When conditions are so bad that you're not comfortable carrying on, be honest with yourself. There's no penalty for pulling to the side of the road and waiting out the storm. Whomever is waiting for you to arrive should understand that it's better that you arrive safely than promptly.

Have the Right Tires

If you know you'll be doing lots of driving in wet or snowy conditions, you can improve your car's handling and your ability to avoid accidents by using the right tires. Many trucks and SUVs come equipped with all-weather rubber, but if you drive something sporty, you'll want to check to see if your car is using summer tires that won't drain excess water from the road.

In snowy conditions, it's a good idea to have a spare set of wheels with studded snow tires available. You'll have to spend some cash up front, and you'll need the space to store the set you aren't using, but since you'll be running both sets less, they should last longer overall.

As you can see, most of the things you can do to help yourself in bad weather are plain old common sense, but they make a big difference.

Learn more about massive pileups — and how to spare yourself from the worst — in this graphic:

The Worst Pileups In History

Make sure you have the right coverage, before you hit the road. Call Fleming & Riles Insurance at (800) 833-4379 for a free Georgia car insurance quote.

(Article and graphic courtesy: Adrienne Erin via CJ Pony Parts)
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