Winter is in full swing and we have already seen the first few snow storms of the season as well as ice covered roads. Unfortunately for us, long gone are the days when we were young children, and bad winter weather meant we could stay home, build snowmen in our yards and go sledding with our friends. Yes, the snow day is a thing of the past for most of us and life must go on, meaning we still have to get ourselves to work in the morning – and this can be a very dangerous undertaking.
According to the U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration, 23 percent of automobile accidents are caused by weather-related factors. When you consider that now is the time when we can expect heavy snow, sleet, freezing rain, black ice and other winter related conditions, it’s clear to see why so many accidents occur during this time of year. Luckily there are several measures we can all take to ensure that we get through the cold months safely and accident free.
With a little extra care and caution we can safeguard ourselves and others from winter weather related accidents.
Here are some helpful tips for navigating the icy or snow-covered roads during wintertime:
Winterize your car or truck
- Overall Check – Make sure your wiper blades, brakes, defroster and heater, exhaust system, and lights are all in proper working condition. Replace your wiper blades if you need to.
- Engine Oil – Before its gets cold, switch your engine oil. If you live where temperatures get below freezing, switching to a thinner, or less viscous, oil will better protect your engine. For example, if you normally use 10W-30 during the warm months, use 5W-30 when changing your oil before winter.
- Coolant Fluid – Make sure your car is using the proper coolant fluid containing ethylene glycol which will help to protect your engine from corrosion.
- Battery – Battery capacity can be reduced by extremely cold temperatures so make a thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals, and fluid before winter is underway.
- Tires – Effective traction on snowy or icy roads requires the proper tires and the tires that served you well during the summer may not be right for winter. Changing all 4 of your tires to snow tires or using all-weather tires all year long will make a huge difference between having an unnecessary accident and traveling safely. Also, make sure you check the tread and pressure of each tire before driving.
- Washer Fluid – Make sure your washer fluid is full and has an antifreeze solution to help avoid freezing in the cold. Keeping your windshield clean and clear is extremely important during winter travel.
- Gas – Always keep your gas tank at least halfway full. This will reduce your chances of a gas line freeze-up and also make unexpectedly longer road trips easier to manage.
- Emergency Preparedness – Keep a fully stocked emergency roadside kit in your vehicle at all times. Along with your kit you should try to keep flares, an ice scraper, blankets, snow boots, a radio, extra engine oil, washer fluid and coolant and a flashlight in your car or truck as well.
Adjust the way you drive
- Drive slowly. Don’t ignore your urge to drive slower in bad weather. Allowing yourself more reaction time to any possible hazard is the key to safe winter driving.
- Stop sooner. When the roads are slippery you should give yourself at least 3 times the normal distance to come to a safe stop.
- Watch for hazards. Patches of ice can form in unexpected areas, like under bridges or overpasses where there is less sunlight. Stay alert for them.
- Do not use cruise control. Using cruise control will reduce your reaction time on slippery roads. Maintain your own speed control and adjust it as you see fit.
- Never slam on your breaks. On ice or snow, sudden braking will almost always lead to skidding. Make sure you are driving slowly and maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles to allow safe braking.
- Keep your headlights on. Always drive with your lights on low in the snow or when visibility is less than perfect.
- Give yourself extra time. It’s going to take longer for you to reach your destination so leaving sooner and allowing yourself plenty of time for safe travel is recommended.
- Bring your cell phone. Keep your cell phone with you as a safety precaution so you can call someone in the event of an accident but otherwise do not look at or use your phone while driving. Also make sure that your phone has an adequate charge, so you are not left stranded with a dead battery in your phone.
Always wear your seat belt!
Follow these simple precautions and safe driving methods and you will be sure to get through the winter without a worry or an automobile accident in sight.