Tips to Stay Safe While Driving in Winter Weather
Winters in Kansas City are no joke – and neither is winter driving. Each year, more than 1,000 people die in vehicle crashes on slushy, icy, or snowy roads nationwide. Winter driving poses several hazards, but the good news is that there are several things you can do while driving this winter to keep yourself, your family, and everyone on the roads safe.
Winter Driving Dangers
Out of 5.8 million vehicle crashes that occur each year in the U.S., 21% are weather-related. Some of the top hazards winter weather brings for drivers include:
- Snow: Though the snow is beautiful to look at, it can carry some chilling consequences for drivers. Precipitation can impact a driver’s operational decisions in several ways. Depending on the type, length, and rate of precipitation, a driver may act differently behind the wheel. In essence, this type of weather condition can affect several operational aspects: vehicle performance, speed limit control, road handling strategy, traffic signal timing, and driver capabilities. Traffic flow and roadway capacity may be affected as well.
- Black ice: Black ice is an age-old threat of the winter season. This type of ice is clear and undetectable on the road. Because black ice is nearly invisible to drivers it is one of the deadliest winter driving hazards. To bypass sliding off the road or into an accident, slow down, don’t brake hard, steer smoothly, and stay calm.
- Improper braking: A driver’s braking ability becomes severely impaired with wintry road conditions; it takes up to 10 times longer to stop when driving on snowy roads. Go easy on the breaks during the colder months.
- Decreased visibility: Whether it’s darkness, fog, dirt on the windshield, snow, ice, or freezing rain, visibility becomes a nightmare in the winter. Even when it’s sunny, the glare on the snow from the sun can feel blinding.
Tips for Safe Winter Driving
Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that winter storms, bad weather, and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. Here are some of our top tips to stay safe on the roads this winter:
- Slow down: Be sure to pump your brakes on any surface you know is slippery. When you find yourself in a situation where you need to accelerate, take it slowly. You don’t want to risk skidding across an icy road, so drive slowly and gradually adjust your speed. Give yourself plenty of time to react in the event of an emergency and travel at safe speeds. Compared to driving in dry conditions, it takes up to 10 times longer to stop when driving on snow-covered roads. Snow can be as slippery as ice, so be careful and slow down. Give yourself some extra time to get to your destination so that you don’t rush or speed.
- Improve visibility: Make sure to clean all winter road residue, snow, and ice off your windshield. Make sure you defrost your windshield before you leave your garage/parking spot. You must maintain efficient driving vision at night so that you can spot hazards and so others can see your road actions.
- Stay home: Only travel when absolutely necessary during winter storms. If you don’t need to be out, there’s no reason to put yourself and others at risk.
- Mind the bridges: Black ice is commonly found on bridges and below overpasses, so tread these areas with care during the winter.
- Hills: Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will only make your wheels spin. Instead, you should try to get some inertia going before you get to the hill and let that inertia carry you to the peak. As you approach the top of the hill, decrease your speed and advance downhill slowly. Never stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get going uphill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the incline.
- Emergency car kit: Before the first snowfall, make sure to restock your emergency road kit and add a few things for winter. Here’s what to include:
▪ A winter hat, gloves, and scarves.
▪ Sand, salt, or gravel: this will make it easier to get out of a slippery situation should you get stuck.
▪ A small shovel.
▪ Extra blankets.
▪ Hand and foot warmers.
▪ Snacks: dried fruit, nuts, protein bars, and water.
▪ Extra clothes, including sweaters and socks
- Keep your distance: 2020 has been the year of social distancing, and the same rules apply to the road, too. Make sure to keep enough distance between you and the car in front of you to avoid car crashes in the snow. Winter driving on inclines is an entirely different ball game. When going downhill, leaving some space as wide as 3–4 vehicles between you and the car in front of you should help avoid a collision.
Involved in an Accident While Driving on Winter Roads?
If you’ve been involved in a winter car accident, contact Plaza Injury Law today. Donovan Dodrill will evaluate your case and recommend your best options for a successful outcome.