The times to be cautious during high or gusting wind are when you’re driving a pickup, SUV, RV, van or bus; you’re towing or hauling; or you’re traveling on a multilane road with lots of large vehicles. The taller and broader the vehicle, the more surface area for wind to shove against. A big gust can force a truck or trailer suddenly into another lane or cause a rollover.
Also, if you have new tires or tall-tread-block tires like MTs, be aware that side-to-side movement from strong crosswinds may feel exaggerated.
To drive safely in high winds:
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated for best traction.
- Leave more time and slow down.
- If blowing dust or driving rain are factors, turn on your headlights to improve visibility.
- Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
- Compensate by steering slightly against a consistent side wind.
- Don’t overcorrect if you get blown off course by a short gust.
- Make steering corrections when driving from areas protected from wind to open areas. Be extra vigilant on bridges, overpasses and open straightaways where wind can spike.
- Be prepared for unpredictable gusts when driving through underpasses, road cuts between hills and tunnels.
- Watch for debris in the road.
- Give other high-profile vehicles, like semis, a lot of room.
- Pull over someplace safe if conditions become dangerous.
- Once you’re at your destination, park away from trees and power lines.
Tire Performance in Strong Wind
High wind causes a vehicle to lift a bit, which reduces the necessary friction between your tires and the pavement. A really large surface, like the side of a fifth wheel, can act like a sail on a sailboat. A wind gust can suddenly pick up such a trailer and force it into another lane or off the road, especially if the blacktop is wet, which also reduces traction.
This effect is exaggerated when tires aren’t fully inflated or when you’re carrying a load. There’s more roll in the tire sidewall and your handling won’t be as responsive.
Be extra vigilant when you have new tires or tires with high lug-to-tread ratio and tall tread blocks, like all-terrain or mud tires. Such tires have more squirm in wind gusts, much like a skyscraper will sway more in high wind than a short building.
Driving in High Winds
If you’re towing a trailer or fifth wheel, driving a lifted truck or RV or hauling a heavy load, consider waiting out the conditions. Before you leave, check your state’s travel advisories. Travel may be not recommended or even be prohibited depending on vehicle type.
The National Weather Service also puts out alerts, including wind advisories. Weather warnings are available by county and zone (scroll down) and updated every few minutes.
The most important thing to remember is to slow down. You’ll have more time to react if you get blown sideways or another driver does.