5 Things You Should Do When Driving in a Hailstorm

Driving through a hailstorm can be one of the most frightening experiences behind the wheel. Your visibility is limited, and there’s only so much your windshield wipers can do in that situation. Hail can also cause all kinds of damage, including cracked windows, dents, and scratched paint.

If there’s a hail warning in your area, you’re better off staying home. But if you’re stuck on the road during a hailstorm, here are five car safety tips to keep you, your passengers, and your vehicle secure.

1. Stop driving

car driving hailstorm
A car damaged in a hailstorm | Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images

According to Erie Insurance, you should stop your car immediately if you’re driving in a hailstorm. If you’re close to home, you might be able to get your vehicle parked in your garage. You can also cover your car with floormats or towels.

If you’re anywhere else, look for a parking garage or similar structure that can provide coverage. Erie Insurance warns not to park next to any items that could fall during a storm, especially power lines. Once you’ve parked safely away from the road, turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights.

2. Park at an angle

Finding ideal covered parking can be difficult during a hailstorm. If the hail starts falling rapidly, it’s more important to get off the road. It might mean more potential damage to your car, but it’s better than getting in an accident.

Parking at an angle will help keep hail away from your car’s most fragile components: the side windows. Your car’s windshield is made of two layers of laminated glass and one polyvinyl layer between them. If the first layer of glass is broken by hail or other small debris, the polyvinyl underneath helps keeps it from shattering.

On the other hand, car windows are usually made from a single layer of tempered glass. Though this layer is still strong, it will shatter if hit hard enough. If any part of your car must remain exposed during a hailstorm, ensure it’s the front end.

3. Stay inside the vehicle

After you’ve parked your car, every rider should stay inside the vehicle until the hailstorm passes. Though it would be tough to get killed by a few pieces of hail, you could still be seriously injured. A single hail pellet can be the size of a softball, and many pellets have sharp edges. 

4. Keep everyone protected

You and your passengers should keep your heads face-down during a hailstorm. Your back should be facing the windshield, so it’s best to crouch on the car’s floor. If possible, have everyone cover themselves with blankets for further protection against hail or shattered glass.

Because hailstorms can pop up out of nowhere, it’s a good idea to have a safety kit in your car at all times. These kits have first-aid supplies, ponchos, and possibly blankets if it’s a winter safety kit. It also doesn’t hurt to carry water and snacks in your vehicle in case you’re stuck in one place for a while.

5. Stay connected 

If your car’s radio still has a good signal, keep it tuned to your local weather station. Alternatively, sometimes your phone’s weather app will tell you when the hail is forecast to stop.

Even if the hail looks like it’s slowing down, more could be on the way. You should resume driving only when weather reports say it’s safe to do so.

But before you get going, step outside your vehicle and assess any damage the hail caused. If you have a flat tire or broken window, call for roadside assistance instead of trying to drive home.

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