Winter weather can be extremely challenging for motorists behind the wheel. More than 17 percent of vehicle crashes occur during winter. 10 percent of all fatal crashes from 2012 through 2016 were in inclement weather.
The colder months are challenging for motorists and it can often feel like any move of the steering wheel will result in an accident. Law firms such as Salt Lake City-based Siegfried & Jensen can help you if you are injured in an accident, but of course it would be better for everyone involved if you avoided a winter-road crash. Here are some tips to stay safe during winter driving conditions.
Keep Your Speed Down
This is the most important tip according to law enforcement. In snowy weather it will take you longer to stop. Your brakes are not going to work the same way they during dry conditions. Wet weather can cause you to slide out of control if you lose traction between your tires and the road. Be prepared – slow down! Law enforcement also says that drivers with 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, studded tires, and snow chains should still slow things down. You are not invincible to the effects of winter weather! Ice is still dangerous even with these additional features. You also still need more room to stop, and to maneuver. Remember, posted speed limits are for perfect weather conditions and not for inclement weather. So drive slower than what the posted limits are. Increase your following distance to give yourself time to brake and use extra caution when changing lanes.
Be Prepared for Winter Driving
Winter comes every year of course. So make sure you are prepared. Always make sure your vehicle is in tip top shape. The last thing you want is to break down during a snow storm. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends checking every system in your vehicle before bad weather hits. Take good care of windshield wipers for better visibility.
As well, make sure your tires are in good working condition. Driving on bald tires is very dangerous, and even more so in winter conditions. All-weather tires need enough tread to keep contact with the road. When it comes to everyday driving, always keep your gas tank full. The last thing you need is to run out of gas, especially on the highway. Traffic jams are horrific in the winter and losing power in your car will leave you without heat.
If your vehicle starts sliding, then you’ve fallen victim to driving on black ice. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that over 150,000 accidents occur each year as a result of driving on icy pavements.
Black ice is created when the temperature of the ground reaches freezing while rain or sleet continues to fall. It also occurs more often at night there is no sun to melt the ice and snow, so it refreezes when the temperature drops. (Morning commutes are particularly treacherous.) Other problem areas are curves, at the bases of inclines, and anywhere else water collects on the street. Unfortunately, most of the time, you won’t know you’re driving on black ice until it’s too late.
The best way to prevent a black ice problem is to be aware of the weather conditions. If it’s below freezing or supposed to drop below freezing while you’re out driving, you should assume that every wet spot you see in front of you is a patch of black ice.
If you see a spot you think might be black ice, try to drive around it as long as it’s safe. It’s also a good idea to avoid places that are particularly prone to black ice. Finally, keep your eyes peeled for skid marks or stranded motorists. They’ve probably encountered the black ice!
Additionally, keeping a straight wheel is advisable to coast safely over the ice. If you turn your wheel while driving on black ice, you’ll increase the likelihood of losing control of your vehicle. If you start to skid and have to turn, be sure to turn into the skid, and ease off the gas pedal (don’t slam the brakes). If you’re going too fast and need to brake, pump the brakes to avoid turning into a full-on skid. Don’t overcorrect a skid!
Always be ready to clear snow and ice from your windshield, headlights, and mirrors. Carry a snow scraper in your car at all times even if it looks like clear weather. You never know when the weather can turn on you and you need to be prepared. Driving with an opaque windshield is a very bad idea. You may face hazards. If you think that you may get stuck in the snow, carry heavy clothes, blankets, shoes, coats and tools with you in the car. Being prepared can save you from dangerous conditions, like being stranded in the snow.
Use Caution on Bridges
Bridges tend to ice over before other parts of a roadway, so while a roadway may just be wet, the bridge can be icy. This is caused because a bridge is more exposed to air than the road surface, so it cools faster – and is therefore more dangerous.
Wear Your Seat Belt
This recommendation may seem obvious, and of course is true no matter what weather conditions are on the road, but it is so important! It’s also equally important to get back inside your vehicle and wear a seat belt if your vehicle is unable to be moved from a roadway during inclement weather. Always try to to move your vehicle off a roadway, if possible.
Keep safe when driving in winter! If you are injured in an accident and need legal counsel, call Siegfried & Jensen at (801) 598-1218 to get help. They’ll be able to guide into what steps you need to take.