Safe driving in severe weather: Tips for Springfield, Missouri drivers

file000290552615_tornado.jpgSummer weather is moving in here in the Ozarks, causing drastic changes in air temperatures and creating the ideal atmosphere to produce tornadoes. Our Springfield personal injury lawyers want to offer area drivers a few helpful safety tips, just in case you find yourself faced with one of these unexpected natural disasters.

Tornadoes are unpredictable storms that can produce extremely dangerous conditions in a matter of moments. Because severe storms can develop quickly, it's important to act with safety and caution whenever tornadic conditions occur while you're on the road. Of course, it's always best to avoid driving when severe storm warnings have been issued, but it's essential to follow certain safety protocol if you happen to be on the road while a storm or tornado hits.

First, always be on the lookout for signs of dangerous weather approaching. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motorists should immediately seek shelter whenever there is a dark or green-colored sky; a large, dark, or low-lying cloud; large hail; and/or a loud roar similar to a train. All of these conditions suggest a tornado or large storm may be developing. When these conditions are present, immediately tune in to a local radio station or news outlet to check for warnings and watches in your area.

Again, if possible, stay off the road when there are signs of severe weather nearby. However, if you're already on the road when severe weather develops, don't try and outrun the storm or tornado. Strong winds can push or pick up a moving car, which can cause life-threatening injuries to motor vehicle occupants. Depending on the specific circumstances, there are several actions you can take to protect yourself, including the following:

Try and seek shelter in a sturdy building nearby. The best place to be is on the lowest level of the building, away from any windows.

If there is nowhere to seek shelter indoors, stop your vehicle and leave it running, if possible. Keep your seatbelt on and lower your head below the windows of your car. Then, cover your head with your hands or a blanket. Once the storm has passed, the Red Cross recommends that you collect yourself and evaluate your surroundings. If there is no debris flying around, check yourself and your passengers for injuries, and call for emergency assistance if needed.

Leave your car if you can get lower than the roadway. Most Missouri drivers are familiar with this familiar tornado safety tip: leave your vehicle and lie in a ditch with your hands over your head. However, in recent years, the Red Cross has changed its recommendation in response to new research, which "found that a relatively small percentage of vehicles are overturned, tossed, and demolished in tornadoes." However, if you feel more comfortable following the long-time safety rule, the Red Cross suggests getting far enough from the car that it will not potentially tumble onto you. Also, it is very important to cover your head to protect from as much debris as possible. (To learn more about both sides of the "Cars vs. Ditches" argument, click here.)