If you live in a part of the country that gets snow and ice during the winter season, you might be feeling nervous about driving during a heavy storm or harsh conditions. This is where brushing up on some winter driving safety tips can come in handy.
You have good reason to be cautious. Icy roads are a major cause of road accidents in the US and each year over half a million crashes occur on slick roads.
However, if you take proper precautions and learn how to drive safely in these conditions, you and your family will remain safe. Read our handy guide to nine winter driving safety tips to find out more.
1. Conduct Essential Vehicle Checks
When you are thinking about driving in harsh winter conditions, there are a few things you need to do before you even set off.
The first thing you need to do is make some essential vehicle checks on your car. Winter driving can be quite tricky, but not as bad as breaking down in sub-zero conditions. Which is why you should make sure your car has been properly serviced before driving in the winter.
You should also check your tires are properly inflated and have the correct amount of tread. You may choose to use snow tires, which you will need to fit before you set off.
Other checks you need to make on your vehicle include:
- The battery (battery power can fall in cold weather)
- Windshield wiper fluid and anti-freeze
- You have a full tank of gas
- Your heaters and defrosters are fully working
- All of the lights work properly
Many of these checks apply to all weather conditions. However, in winter weather conditions you stand a greater chance of being delayed.
2. Make Sure You Are Well Equipped
The next thing you need to check is that your car is properly packed with the items you would need in case of a winter emergency.
If you have made all the vehicle checks we have already mentioned, it is unlikely you will break down. However, winter conditions can throw up unexpected events like fallen trees and floods.
Here is a list of the items you should keep in your vehicle throughout the winter:
- Tire chains
- Jumper cables
- Road salt
- Extra wiper fluid
- Food and water
- Reflective vest
- First Aid kit
- Pocket knife
You should make sure that you have all the equipment in your car, that should you break down, means you are safe and comfortable.
3. Do You Really Need to Make the Trip?
The final thing you should think about before you set off in winter conditions is whether your journey is really essential.
Driving in snow and ice is hazardous, and if you can avoid it you should. Even if the weather does not appear too severe to start with, it can worsen quickly.
If your journey is a social call, it is probably best to postpone it for another day. If you are traveling to work, have you asked if can you work from home instead?
4. Plan Your Journey
Once you have made all the necessary checks and packed your car, you should plan your journey. Check the weather forecast to see how widespread the snow storm is, then check your route. Ask yourself which is the safest route to travel in winter conditions.
Your usual route is probably the quickest one, but it might not be the most appropriate for winter conditions if it involves winding narrow roads.
Finally, make sure you tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be. If you do encounter delays or breakdown, at least someone will know to look for you.
5. Take It Slowly
It is harder to control your vehicle if there is ice on the road. Driving slightly slower than usual will give more time to react in icy conditions.
It is also likely snow will reduce visibility and you may not be able to see as far in front as the next vehicle. Driving at speed on these conditions is very risky as you may not be able to see obstructions in the road or other vehicles.
6. How To Recover From a Skid
Even if you are cautious and driving slowly it is still possible that ice and snow will cause your vehicle to skid. Knowing how to react when your car skids can mean the difference between having a collision or not.
So what should you do if you can feel your vehicle beginning to slide on the road?
First: don’t panic. While it may seem scary, you can recover from a skid if you stay calm. If it is the rear wheels sliding behind you, then you should steer into the skid.
However, if your front wheels start to skid then you should just lessen the steering angle and brake gradually. Do not brake hard as this can make the skid worse.
7. Keep Your Distance
Among the many winter driving safety tips, keeping your distance from other vehicles is an important one. There may not be that many other cars on the road in winter conditions, but when you are sharing the road it is important that you keep your distance.
When driving conditions are unpredictable, the car in front may well brake or skid when you are not expecting it. Tailgating in these conditions can be very dangerous and cause accidents.
8. Stay Alert
Winter driving can be tiring. You are concentrating harder than usual, visibility may be poor, and you probably have your car heaters on.
All of this can leave you fatigued, and if you are not careful, you can fall asleep.
Stay alert by taking regular breaks on a long journey. You can also open the window for a few seconds every now and then. Nothing wakes you up more than a blast of cold air.
Stay hydrated by drinking water, as dehydration can cause tiredness and headaches.
9. Safety Is The Key To Winter Driving
Road accidents caused by winter weather are common and can cause personal injury. Keeping yourself and your family safe when driving in winter is the most important thing.
Regardless of these winter driving safety tips, you should all routinely be wearing seatbelts and sitting still in the vehicle.
Never text or use your cellphone manually, as it can distract you from driving. And you should never drive while under the influence of drink or drugs.
One of the Most Important Winter Driving Safety Tips: Get Legal Help Following a Car Accident
So those are some tips on winter driving. Most of it comes down to common sense and being cautious.
When you know the journey and the roads are familiar it can be easy to get complacent. But driving in snow and ice is hazardous and you should always take it slowly, and be prepared.
However, if you were involved in a car accident, you should seek legal help as soon as possible. Talk to one of our personal injury attorneys today at (800) 674-7854 for a free, no-obligation consultation.