17% of all motor vehicle accidents occur in winter weather conditions.
While accidents can happen at any time, winter conditions make driving more dangerous. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to help you stay safe on the road during the winter months.
Keep reading for our guide to driving safely in less than ideal winter weather and what to do if an accident occurs.
Preparation is Key
Part of staying safe on the road in the winter boils down to how well prepared you and your vehicle are for the conditions.
Before you hit the open road, you should get to know your car and how it behaves in the winter. Consider practicing driving your car in snow conditions somewhere like an empty parking lot.
Your car should be in optimal shape to handle the toughest winter conditions. Check your battery and make sure it is charged and working well before it gets cold. Always keep your gas tank as full as possible in the winter months.
Get your oil changed and make sure you have the best grade of oil for your vehicle type. Purchase wiper blades designed for winter and use wiper fluid that contains anti-freeze.
Make sure your tires have good tread and that they are sufficiently inflated. Depending on where you live, you may need to winterize your car by purchasing snow tires.
Your car should be fully stocked with an emergency winter weather kit. This should include a snowbrush, scraper, snow shovel, salt or cat litter, blankets, coats, bottled water, and food that won’t perish.
Always Plan Ahead
Perhaps the most important thing to do when preparing to drive in the winter is to leave early and give yourself extra time.
Traveling usually takes longer in the winter months for a number of reasons. Being prepared for slower traffic flows and higher chances of encountering an accident can help you stay safe. When you have extra time, you’ll be less tempted to drive more quickly than you should.
In case of emergency, make sure your cell phone is charged and bring a car charger, but never use your phone while driving. Pull over if you need to make a call.
If you don’t know where you’re going, check the directions before you leave. When you know your route ahead of time, you’re less likely to make sudden stops or direction changes, which are more dangerous in the winter.
Finally, keep an eye on the weather before you leave. Check the weather not just at your departure point, but also at your destination and along the way. Knowing ahead of time allows you the chance to reroute or change your travel plans if needed.
How to Stay Safe on the Road
One of the most important ways to stay safe on the road in the winter months is to adapt your driving to surrounding conditions.
Driving too fast for conditions is the number one cause of accidents, and is also one of the most preventable causes. It’s particularly important to be aware of the conditions in the colder months when roads are covered with snow and ice.
Black ice is notoriously dangerous because it’s not always easy to see. Even if you have 4-wheel drive, you won’t be able to stop quickly on ice. In the winter months, you should always drive more cautiously and slow down. Stopping, turning, and accelerating are more difficult and take more time when the roads are covered in snow or ice.
You should also give yourself even more distance than usual between surrounding vehicles. Give yourself plenty of extra time to come to a complete stop and leave extra distance between your car and the one in front of you. Always stay in your lane and avoid driving too close to the side of the road.
While you should always stay alert while behind the wheel, take care to focus solely on the road in the winter months. Keep an eye out for animals, especially deer.
Remember that bridges and roads that aren’t exposed to sunlight will freeze more quickly and can be frozen even when surrounding roads are not. Finally, never use cruise control when driving on frozen roads. You want to be in full control of your vehicle.
Driving in a Storm
Even if you plan ahead, there may be a time where you get caught on the road when a storm rolls in.
The most important thing to remember if this happens is that you shouldn’t try to drive your way out of the storm. Instead, you should do your best to get out of the storm until it passes. Seek shelter for both yourself and your vehicle.
If you have no other choice, pull over to the side of the road. This article contains additional information about how to stay safe if you find yourself trapped on the road in the middle of a blizzard.
Always stay tuned to the radio or your GPS so you are up to date on the latest information about the storm and any resulting accidents. If necessary, change routes to avoid accidents or the storm itself.
What to Do if an Accident Occurs
No matter how careful you are on the road, accidents can still happen.
While you should do everything you can to stay safe on the road, you can’t control the actions of others. If you are the victim of a car accident that was the fault of another driver, you might be eligible for compensation.
If you suffered property damage or bodily injury as a result of your accident, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation and to learn more about your rights.