Tips for Safely Driving in Snow
Snow can be beautiful—a serene white blanket over the countryside. Driving in snow, however, is another story.
In Ohio, winter driving can be deadly. One study done using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that Ohio is actually the worst state in the nation for fatal winter car accidents!
Today, we’re tackling this topic to help you avoid the worst. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about driving in snow and how to prevent an accident.
The Dangers of Driving in Snow
What makes winter driving so deadly? There are several reasons, each more dangerous than the last.
Winter weather can do a number on your car. Salt from the roads can cause rust. Freezing temperatures can cause your tires to lose air pressure and your battery to produce less power. Also, low temperatures thicken your car’s fluids, including the oil, power steering, antifreeze, transmission, and brake fluids. All of these problems can result in your car breaking down and even cause an accident.
Gray days and falling snow limit a driver’s visibility. When you can’t see your surroundings or the other drivers around you, it increases the odds of an accident.
Traction is how you control where your car goes. In order to have traction, your tires have to make solid contact with the road. Snow makes the road slick and causes your tires to lose traction, increasing the risk that you’ll spin out of control.
How to Prepare for Winter Driving
Preparing for winter driving starts with the adage “better safe than sorry.” Take the dangers of winter driving seriously and plan for the worst: an accident or becoming stranded in the snow.
Here are a few steps we recommend:
Keep up with car maintenance.
Take your car to be serviced before winter hits in full. Refill your windshield wiper fluid and replace your wipers. Also, check your battery to make sure it’s in top shape.
Consider snow tires.
Snow tires are specifically designed for driving in snow. They have a tread with larger gaps, which increase traction on snow and ice more than all-season tires. Some snow tires also have studs to increase traction even more. If you plan to drive a lot in the winter, snow tires can be a great investment in your safety.
Create an emergency kit.
Your emergency kit should include bottled water, non-perishable snacks, a warm blanket, jumper cables, a flashlight, flares, and a cell phone charger. You should also keep a snow shovel and cat litter (it increases traction) in your car.
Keep your gas tank full.
Keeping your gas tank at or above the halfway mark will prevent you running out of gas in a snowstorm or experiencing a gas line freeze.
Give yourself extra time.
Before heading out, check the weather. If rain, sleet, or snow is expected, give yourself extra time. That way, you can warm up your car properly and drive slowly.
Driving Tips for Snowy Roads
If you’ve lived in Ohio for a while, you’re probably pretty comfortable driving in snow. However, don’t get too comfortable.
Even the lightest of flurries can be hazardous: a light dusting of snow on the road can melt quickly and refreeze, creating sheets of ice! Also, the more cars on the road, the greater the danger. Snow that’s been packed down by other cars provides less traction.
When the weather is bad, we recommend these driving safety tips:
This includes accelerating, braking, turning, and maintaining speed. Driving slowly gives you more time to react and reduces your chance of a skid.
Jerky, abrupt movements can result in a skid when the tires already have a tenuous grip on the road. Make sure you are gentle and deliberate when turning the steering wheel and pressing the pedals.
Give the vehicle in front of you greater following distance.
Snow and ice reduce your car’s traction, which means it will take longer for your car to stop. To avoid rear-ending the person in front of you, make sure to give them lots of room. Your following distance should be about five to six seconds.
Look at the road.
The weather can change abruptly, so make sure to look at your surroundings while you’re driving. Is the road shiny or dull? (Shiny generally means wet.) Does the snow look white and powdery or gray and slushy? (Snow that’s starting to melt—the gray, slushy, wet kind—is even more slick than dry, powdery white snow.) These indicators can tell you when you need to drive even more carefully.
Try not to stop on a hill, if possible.
Accelerating up a hill can be hard or impossible in the snow. If you can, keep going until you reach the top of the hill.
Don’t use cruise control in snowy or slippery conditions.
Your car’s cruise control doesn’t know the conditions outside the car. As a result, cruise control can end up making a skid worse by accelerating into a hydroplane! In snowy conditions, turn the cruise control off.
Look where you want to go.
If you feel your car starting to skid, look where you want to go instead of want you want to avoid. This can help you recover in a skid. Make sure to continue steering!
Don’t panic in a skid.
When your car starts to skid, don’t panic. Instead, do the following:
- In a front-wheel skid (where your front tires lose grip), ease off the gas. When your front tires regain traction, steer where you want to go.
- In a rear-wheel skid (where your rear tires lose grip and you spin out), turn your steering wheel in the same direction as your rear tires. For example, if your car’s rear is spinning to the right, you’d turn the wheel to the right. At the same time, take your foot off the accelerator and don’t use the brakes. When your rear tires get traction back, steer back in the original direction you were going.
Know how to use your ABS brakes.
When you’re in a skid you can’t stop or you need to stop ASAP, it’s time for anti-lock brakes. If your car has ABS (all new cars do), press as hard as you can on your brakes and don’t let up. Keep steering. Remember that ABS brake pedals will vibrate when they’re working, so don’t lift your foot off the brakes.
We’re Here to Help after a Car Accident
If you experience a car accident caused by another person’s reckless winter driving, we’re here for you. Our firm’s car accident attorneys can help you determine if a personal injury claim is right in your case.
To learn more, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.