We think it’s pretty safe to say that no one enjoys driving in the winter. The snow, ice, and sleet make for dangerously slippery road conditions and poor visibility. On top of that, there are more drivers on the road thanks to holiday preparations and travel. Together, these factors increase the likelihood that you and your family will experience a car accident.
Still, there’s no getting around driving: you have to get to work, go to the grocery store, and travel around the holidays. Since you have to get behind the wheel almost every day, we’d like to help you make sure that every journey is a safe one.
We’ve outlined a few helpful winter driving tips, below.
Prepare Your Car for Winter
This is perhaps the most important tip and the one that sneaks by most people. (We all lead busy lives, after all.) Before winter hits in full force, try to complete the following list.
- Check your tires for air and tread wear. Change them to snow tires if necessary. (Snow tires are especially important for cars that do not have all-wheel drive. Though most new cars come with AWD, it’s important to double-check that your vehicle has this feature.)
- Check your antifreeze level and the freeze line.
- Take your car in for a check-up at a mechanic to check the condition of your brakes, battery, fan belts, and spark plugs.
- Keep your gas tank above half-full to prevent your gas line from freezing.
- Make sure that your trunk contains a winter survival kit in case you become stranded. Include an ice scraper, flashlight and extra batteries, brightly colored cloth, flares, first aid kit, shovel, jumper cables, tire chains, a bag of salt, cat litter, non-perishable food, water, a blanket, and warm clothes.
Check the Weather
Like most people, you’re probably running late some mornings. In the winter, try to minimize this as much as possible. Give yourself enough time to check the weather and prepare for the drive ahead.
If the weather is bad, you might need extra time to warm up your car (or shovel the snow off of if you do not have a garage). Never warm up your car in an enclosed space like a garage, even if the garage door is open: this puts you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Instead, move your car out of the garage and warm it up in your driveway.
You’ll also need more time in order to drive more slowly than normal. Remember that it’s better to be a few minutes late than endanger yourself and others.
Adjust Your Driving Habits
For just a few months out of the year, driving becomes exponentially more dangerous. Winter weather conditions affect our car and the roads in a few key ways: they reduce visibility, prevent tires from firmly gripping the road, and make it harder to turn, accelerate, and decelerate quickly.
As a result, safe winter driving means adjusting our normal driving habits to accommodate for difficult conditions. The National Safety Council, AAA, and other safe driving organizations recommends the following winter driving habits.
- Use your seat belt every time you get behind the wheel. With so many accidents happening in the winter, you want to take every safety precaution you can.
- Avoid driving while tired. Winter weather conditions require you to be even more alert than normal, and fatigue reduces your reaction time.
- Accelerate, brake, and turn more slowly than normal. Snow and ice reduce the amount of traction your tires have on the road, meaning that quick acceleration, braking, and turning can lead to a skid.
- Give yourself a greater following distance. It will take you longer to stop on snowy and icy roads. Lengthening the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you will help you avoid rear-ending someone.
- Don’t stop on a hill if you can avoid it. Going up a hill when the road is icy or snowy is extremely difficult, so avoid stopping when you can.
- Avoid stopping when you can. (Of course, this doesn’t apply when you have to obey traffic laws.) If, for example, you can slow down without stopping until a traffic light changes, do so.
- Don’t use cruise control when driving on a slippery surface, such as a wet or icy road. Cruise control can cause you to go into “auto-pilot mode.” Also, if your car begins to hydroplane (when water causes your tires to lose contact with the road), cruise control can make it worse by trying to maintain your car’s speed. You may also make the hydroplaning worse by hitting the brakes to deactivate the cruise control. Instead, keep cruise control off, and if you begin to hydroplane, take your foot off the accelerator.
Call Casper & Casper after an Accident
Unfortunately, you can do everything you can to drive safely during the winter and still get into a car accident thanks to a careless driver.
If you are injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, contact the car accident attorneys at Casper & Casper. We’ll answer all of your questions and let you know your options for compensation.