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Tips for driving safely in smoky conditions

As wildfires become more frequent, widespread and serious in California, many of us find ourselves driving in smoky conditions even if we're nowhere near a blaze. Smoke can be as blinding as rain and snow. Moreover, people driving through smoke may be looking around to catch a glimpse of the fire, worried about getting home to their families or in the process of evacuating to a safe location.

Therefore, it's essential to exercise extreme caution when driving in smoky conditions. The following are some things to remember.

Have your headlights on, but don't use your high beams. They reflect off of smoke, and the glare can blind you and others.

Keep your windows completely shut. You may still be able to smell smoke, but it won't be as overpowering. If you need air, make sure that your air conditioner or heater is in recirculation mode, so outside air isn't coming in.

Signal well in advance of any moves, whether you're turning or changing lanes. However, try to avoid changing lanes or passing vehicles unless necessary.

Drive slowly and allow plenty of room between your car and the one ahead of you. This will make it easier to stop if a vehicle slows or stops unexpectedly. Smoky conditions can make it seem like you're moving faster than you actually are. Watch your speedometer.

Stay in the far-right lane if possible. This makes it easier to know where the edge is. Whatever lane you're in, keep an eye on the lane lines.

Use your defrosters and windshield wipers. It can be difficult to tell if the poor visibility is completely the result of smoke or if there is moisture on your windshields. Your wipers and defrosters can help you get as much visibility as possible.

If you need to pull off the road because you can't see or to let emergency vehicles by, put your hazard lights on once you're parked so that you're visible to others. Be sure to signal before pulling back onto the road.

Smoke, like rain, snow and wind, can be a challenge for drivers. That's why we all have a responsibility to drive appropriately for the conditions. When drivers cause a crash due to negligence or recklessness, they are still responsible. If you're the victim of an at-fault driver, make sure you get the compensation you need and deserve.

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