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Tips from CHiPs: Driving in inclement weather 

Ken Antonetti, author of Tips from CHiPs, is an officer with the California Highway Patrol based out of Coalinga.

Ken Antonetti, author of Tips from CHiPs, is an officer with the California Highway Patrol based out of Coalinga.

– It’s that time of year again when the notorious valley fog and heavy rain are upon us. There are several safety considerations and a few different laws to take into account when driving in any type of inclement weather.California Vehicle Code section 24400(b) requires any motor vehicle to have two headlights activated during times of darkness or inclement weather.

What is inclement weather? Inclement weather, as defined by California Vehicle Code section 24400(c), is a weather condition which prevents a driver from clearly discerning a person or another vehicle on the roadway from a distance of 1,000 feet, and/or weather which requires windshield wipers to be in continuous use due to rain, mist, snow, fog or other precipitation or atmospheric moisture. This becomes very important, as a vehicle with its headlights activated during darkness or inclement weather is much more visible than one without its headlights on.

Another traffic law to keep  in mind is the basic speed law. California Vehicle Code section 22350 states that the driving speed must be safe for the prevailing roadway conditions. Prevailing roadway conditions can be a wet roadway, some form of obstruction in the roadway, stopped or slowed traffic, or any sort of weather which limits visibility. You are ordered to drive with due regard for these potential hazards and at a speed which is safe enough to traverse the roadway without being involved in a collision.

Here are a few Tips from CHiPs regarding inclement weather:

  1. When driving during inclement weather, be sure to drive with extra caution and at a slower speed to accommodate for perception time and reaction time. The ability to perceive a hazard in the roadway and then react to that hazard is commonly known as “Perception-Reaction” time. Several studies have been conducted and have shown average times to range between 1.5 seconds for a rural county road and up to 3.0 seconds for high traffic urban areas. Keep in mind, this is just perception-reaction time, it does not take into consideration stopping distance or any evasive maneuvers you may have to undertake in this type of scenario. That being said, you should give yourself at least three seconds worth of “sight distance” when driving in inclement weather. How can you check your sight distance? When driving, keep your eyes out for a street sign or raised reflector in the road in front of you, and then start counting the seconds. If it takes less than three seconds for that landmark to meet your car, slow down until your sight distance is at least three seconds long.
  2. When driving in inclement weather, knowing your location is very important. If your vehicle breaks down or you are involved in a traffic collision, not having a good location to relay to the 911 dispatcher makes it becomes increasingly difficult to get you the help you need.

Remember, inclement weather can drastically reduce your visibility, so when driving in any sort of limited visibility, reduce your speed, increase your following distance and remember to activate your headlights. As always, follow all traffic laws, make sure all occupants in your vehicle are secured properly, never drink and drive, stay off the phone and drive safe.

Any questions for CHP can be sent by mail, email, or in person. The Coalinga CHP office is located at 125 South Sixth St., Coalinga, CA 93210. Please make it attention to Officer Ken Antonetti. My email address is If you would rather ask a question in person, feel free to drop by our office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.



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About the author: Access Publishing

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on , Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.