Cold weather can create some of the harshest driving conditions of the year. And, months between October and February top the list for accidents, vehicle damage and injuries.
When the temperature dips and the snow rises, it is important for drivers to increase their attention to safety on the road. With proper preparation, some preventative driving measures and an eye on the weather report, drivers can protect themselves and their vehicles during the winter months.
The experts on winter driving accidents, CARSTAR Collision Centers, repairs thousands of vehicles each year damaged in snowy, icy accidents. Dan Bailey, president of CARSTAR Collision Centers, offers drivers some helpful tips to make winter driving safer.
Check Your Visibility:
- Add de-icer to your windshield wiper fluid
- Make sure your windshield wipers are free of ice before heading out on the road - and consider updating with new flexible windshield wipers before the snow hits
- Make sure all mirrors are clear and properly adjusted for visibility
- Clean your headlights and check the bulbs in all of your vehicle lights - front and rear
Slow Down and Stay Back:
- When there is snow or ice on the ground, drop your speed to a safe limit
- Leave extra distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you for additional safety
- Do not use cruise control on icy roads
- Use caution on bridges, overpasses, and infrequently travelled roads because these may be slippery from ice
- Use extra caution when driving on one-lane roads
If your rear wheels skid:
- Take your foot off the accelerator
- Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right
- If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control
- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently
- If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse - this is normal
If your front wheels skid:
- Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.
- As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently
Prepare for a Snow Day:
- If your vehicle has rear wheel drive, put bags of sand or kitty litter to help keep your vehicle easier to control
- Pack a snow day kit just in case you get stuck. Important items to include are a blanket, gloves, hat, water, granola bars, flashlight and extra batteries, extra cell phone battery, flares, wooden matches in waterproof container, compass, scissors, rope and first aid kit.
- Prepare a toolbox for digging your car out with foldable shovel, 2x4 planks to put under tires, ice scraper and snow brush, reflective triangles, flares and exterior windshield cleaner
"You can never be too careful when driving in winter weather," said Bailey. "Accidents can happen so quickly on slick, icy roads, so slowing down and taking the extra precautions can really make the difference."