How My Dad’s Advice Saved My Life… More Than Once…

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“You have to pump the brakes.”

I watched as my dad mimed compressing and decompressing an imaginary brake pedal.

“You don’t want to just come to a screeching halt. You have to ease into it.”

Poor, Dad. I probably rolled my eyes at him at the time, but what I didn’t want to admit when I was younger was the exact thing that saved me every time an “almost” accident occurred. My dad had his opinions about driving – but there was no “opinion” about them. Everything he said was fact and it was important.

Back then, “pump the breaks” was  like a broken record that I let flow in one ear and out the other, but when I was stuck driving home from school on a fresh layer of sleet, you can bet I pumped those brakes! Without my dad’s  words replaying through my head every time I got behind the wheel, who knows what would be different today – or better yet – how high my car insurance premiums would be.

I have been driving for over a decade now and I continue to file away little tips and tidbits from my dad in the back of my mind for when I need it, which is often. As it turns out – and I speak from experience –  dad was right! Pumping your brakes really IS important and recommended for driving in heavy rain or when a deer suddenly appears in the road (never swerve!) Dads have lots of great advice, and whether it is invited or not, it’s usually worth a listen.

My dad’s advice for driving in wintry mix is to turn on the defroster, drive SLOWLY, and to keep some kitty litter and extra warm clothes in the trunk. Dad is very big into emergency preparedness kits – which is a good recommendation for both experienced and inexperienced drivers. Whether it’s water bottles, a shovel, jumper cables, a car jack, spare tire, tools, a flashlight, a Bear Grylls utility knife (hey, you never know), rope, tarp, radio, or beef jerky, dad is prepared. He keeps most of this in his car at all times because it’s true: you never know when you’ll need it. Sometimes I feel like a prepper’s daughter – but I ALWAYS feel like a wiser driver with Dad’s safe-driving tips tucked away in my mind.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane: I vividly remember being young and driving during spring storm season in Oklahoma when a tornado touched down only a few miles away from our car. Dad calmly explained that in the event of a tornado that you should pull over and try to find a ditch to lay down in. While that is definitely a great “plan A” (kudos to him for keeping a clear head while a gray funnel of death hurdled toward us), I am glad that we did not have to use it. Luckily for us, our cousin’s house wasn’t too far away and we were able to take shelter there until it was safe to drive the rest of the way home. According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it is also recommended that you avoid sheltering under or near trees, bridges, or overpasses which can produce hazardous flying debris.

Dad “came in clutch” yet once again when we were driving and a bolt of lightning struck a tree by the road. There was a flash and loud BOOM – It was unlike anything I had ever seen! Just outside the car window was a black and sizzling stump. My sister and I were terrified at the thought of lightning striking our car. However, Dad explained that while lightning was attracted to tall things and metal things (like a vehicle), our car also had rubber tires which repelled lightning because it is not a conductor of electricity. Therefore, rest assured, this is dad verified: Your car is not likely to get struck by lightning during a storm.

Here are a few more times Dad was right, even when I didn’t want to admit it:     

  • Everyone should be familiar with the term “hydroplaning.” By now you know that you need to pump those brakes when coming to a stop. In addition to that, drivers also need to be especially cautious while turning, taking curves slowly. Hydroplaning occurs most often when the roads first become wet as oil from cars and rainwater mix, causing extra slick conditions. Did you know that it is also important to check the condition of your wiper blades often? If you find that your blades aren’t clearing away water like they used to, you can purchase new blades at any auto part shop, as well as most dealerships or major retailers, like WalMart. Several places will even install them for free!
  • Flash flooding advice is perhaps the simplest of all: “Turn around, don’t drown.” Although my father did not personally coin the phrase, we were always emphatically told NEVER to drive into water that was covering the road. If you find your vehicle in high water, your motor could stall out, or even worse, your car could get swept away by a current. This is especially important when driving at night and visibility is even more limited.
  • Driving on the turnpike in Oklahoma, I have had a few instances where the rain and hail have pelted down so hard that I could literally not see the car in front of me. In those times,it is important to pull over onto the shoulder, turn your hazard lights on, and park until conditions are more visible. For additional safety, remember to lock your door and text someone your location if you can. Waiting it out is a much better scenario than missing a road sign and getting lost or colliding with another vehicle.

For those of you who never had a dad to coach you through the “goods” and “bads” of driving, I urge you to take my dad’s advice for driving in inclement weather as it has changed my life. To sum up dad’s advice: pump the brakes, drive slowly, be aware of your surroundings, have a well-stocked emergency kit handy, know where to go when bad weather strikes, always let someone know where you are and BE CAREFUL. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

For additional safety tips regarding driving in your area, check with your local auto insurance agent. It’s important to know the roads and weather in your area, and your insurance professional will want you to stay safe. They can also let you know what kind of coverage best fits with the storm damage most common in your area.


“Hello, I’m Emily Kelley! I am a wife to a high school teacher and soccer coach, and mommy to a rambunctious 2 1/2 year old little boy. I am certified to teach Art and English in the state of Oklahoma, but I’m taking a break to raise my little and work at my church’s Mother’s Day Out program. I love kids and all the messy, chaotic, creativity that they bring to the table. I love to teach and learn!”

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