What are the Best Safety Tips for Winter Driving?
December 30, 2020
Snow, ice, and freezing rain can make driving conditions treacherous during the winter. Even the most experienced drivers can hit a patch of black ice and lose control of their vehicle. As the temperatures start to plummet, driving conditions also take a turn. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 1,300 people die and another 100,000 are injured each year in winter weather-related car accidents each year. Pennsylvania has the unfortunate title as the second most dangerous state for winter driving, with Michigan being first on the list. If motorists must drive during inclement weather conditions, they should use caution and make safety a priority.
How Do I Prepare My Vehicle for Winter?
Before the cold weather arrives, motorists should make an appointment with a trusted mechanic, who can make sure that their car is winterized and safe to drive in the extreme cold. The NHTSA offers the following safety tips for winter driving:
- Inspect tires. Tire pressure fluctuates with the temperature. Cold weather causes the air inside a tire to constrict and become underinflated. This can affect the fuel economy and cause the outer edges of the tread to wear out more quickly. Motorists can check tread depth by placing a penny in the tread with Lincoln’s head facing down. If the top of Lincoln’s head is visible, motorists should replace the tire. People who live in mountainous areas, or places that tend to get heavy snow, should consider investing in snow tires and/or a set of chains.
- Check the battery. Car batteries lose their charge more quickly during the cold weather. A mechanic can check the car’s battery and make sure it has sufficient voltage, or needs replacement.
- Use the correct coolant. In most cases, a 50/50 mix of water to coolant is sufficient, but a mechanic can confirm this. A mechanic can flush the cooling system if it clogs with dirt and rust.
- Check for fluid leaks. It is very important that drivers top all fluid levels, and ensure there are no leaks.
- Check windshield wipers. The wiper blades should be working properly and the windshield washer reservoir filled with no-freeze washer fluid. Drivers should replace wiper blades that are cracked or ineffective.
How can I Avoid a Car Accident During the Winter?
The best way to avoid being in a car accident when there is snow, ice, or freezing rain on the roads is to stay home. However, that is not always an option. Motorists who must travel during inclement weather should keep the following safety tips in mind at all times:
- Allow for extra travel time. Hazardous road conditions require motorists to slow down and use extra caution. Drivers who recognize that travel takes longer during inclement weather are less likely to speed, swerve in and out of lanes, and tailgate, all of which can be very dangerous during the winter.
- Remove all snow and ice from the car. Before hitting the road, motorists should clear away any ice or snow that has accumulated on the roof, the windshield, the side mirrors, and the windows. If a large sheet of ice flies off the car when driving on a busy highway, it can hit another vehicle and cause an accident.
- Slow down. Speeding and tailgating is dangerous driving behavior, but it is particularly dangerous during the winter when roads can be treacherous. Motorists should slow down and leave plenty of room between their vehicle and the car ahead. Speed limits on major highways may be reduced to 45 mph during a storm.
- Fill it up. It is highly recommended that motorists keep their gas tank at least half full at all times. Condensation can form in the empty parts of the gas tank. When condensation freezes, pieces of ice can cause blockages to collect in the fuel tank. This can prevent a car from starting. In addition, keeping the gas tank half-full will allow the motorist to keep the vehicle running in order to stay warm in the event that the car breaks down.
- Anticipate changing weather conditions. Snow or rain can quickly turn to ice as the sun goes down. Temperatures can quickly fall below freezing, causing road conditions to fluctuate and become more hazardous.
- Use caution when driving near snowplows. When snowplow operators are clearing the roads, the spray from the plow can make it difficult for them to see motorists behind them. Therefore, drivers should never try to pass an active snowplow.
- Do not leave a disabled vehicle. If a vehicle breaks down, a motorist should attempt to move the car from the active travel lanes as possible. Abandoned vehicles are automatically towed so that snowplow operators can clear the roads.
- Stay alert. Drivers must keep their attention focused on the road ahead and avoid distractions. However, this is particularly true when driving during a winter storm when road conditions can be extremely hazardous. Avoid making phone calls, sending text messages, reaching for something is the backseat, or any other distractions that can take the driver’s attention off the road.
- Stay sober. Drunk drivers are less likely to maintain control of their vehicles or react quickly to another vehicle during inclement weather. Drunk driving, combined with hazardous road conditions, can be a deadly mix. Never get behind the wheel after consuming too much alcohol.
- Buckle up. Motorists should wear their seat belt at all times, but it is particularly important when road conditions are dangerous. Wearing a seat belt is the easiest and most effective thing drivers can do to prevent serious injuries or fatalities in the event of a car accident. If there are children in the vehicle, make sure that they are safely secured in a car seat that is appropriate for their height, weight, and age.
- Check for recalls. If a vehicle manufacturer has recalled a car, it can have critical safety issues. Motorists can check vehicle recalls at www.nhtsa.gov/recalls by entering their car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Repairs or replacements are usually done at no cost to the consumer. Consumers who fail to follow up on a product recall may be held partially liable for any injuries and property damage if they are involved in an accident.
What are the Most Common Winter-Related Road Hazards?
Snow, ice, sleet, and freezing rain are the obvious culprits when it comes to weather-related road hazards, but the following are additional hazards that can cause serious accidents:
- Isolated ice patches
- Other motorists driving too fast or recklessly, despite the hazardous road conditions
- Plow trucks that shoot salt, or turn or pull out in front of other drivers
- Private roads that have not been cleared of snow or ice
What if My Car Starts to Skid?
If a vehicle’s rear tires skid, a driver should take his or her foot off the gas and steer into the direction the front wheels should go. Keep pressure on the anti-lock brakes, even if they start pulsing. If the rear wheels start to skid, the driver should take their foot off the gas and shift into neutral. Wait to steer until the vehicle slows down. Once the motorist feels traction, he or she can put the car back into gear and slowly accelerate.
If the vehicle is stranded, move the car as far from traffic as possible and turn on the hazard lights. If the driver has flares in the car, he or she should light two and place one in front and one behind the car. While waiting for help to arrive, run the heater for 10 minutes every hour, and make sure there is nothing blocking the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
What Should I Include in an Emergency Kit?
During extreme winter weather, having an emergency kit in the car can literally be a lifesaver if a motorist’s car breaks down. The following items can help keep stranded motorists safe and warm until help arrives:
- Extra blankets, socks, and warm clothing
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Reflective triangles
- Rock salt, sand, or kitty litter
- Jumper cables
- Ice scraper
- Cell phone charger
- Bottles of water and non-perishable food
- Extra medication
- Emergency toolkit
- First-aid kit
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Victims of Winter Weather-Related Car Accidents
If you were injured in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the accident, including whether the other driver failed to take the necessary safety precautions based on the weather conditions. Our dedicated legal team will walk you through the claims process. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. With offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.