Winter weather creates extremely dangerous road conditions, making driving a frightening experience. According to AAA, nearly half a million car accidents per year are winter weather related and result in over 2,000 fatalities.
Snow, freezing rain, and ice alter the roadways and vehicles, decrease visibility, and can severely compromise our ability to drive. When it comes to driving during winter, preparedness and attentiveness are key. Here are steps to take before you hit the road and while driving to help ensure your safety in winter conditions.
Steps to Take before You Travel
- Do not drive if possible. The absolute safest way to avoid an accident during dangerous snow and ice conditions is to not drive at all. If you are scheduled to work, make arrangements with your employer to work from home or go in later once crews have cleared and treated the roads.
- Allow yourself time. Driving in winter weather often requires more time; cars need cleaning off and warming up, speeds are slower, and routes may be closed or redirected. Check the weather the night before and if snow or ice is expected, allow yourself more time to prepare your car and for driving.
- Clean off your car. If you do not keep your car in a garage, make sure you allot time to thoroughly clean all snow and ice from your car, especially all the windows and lights. It is the law in New Jersey. Do not skimp and leave snow and ice on the roof, trunk, or hood. This can be dangerous for you and other motorists. Snow or ice blowing from these parts of the car can block windshields, cover lights, and even cause damage or broken windows.
- Inspect the lights. Check headlights, brake lights and taillights, emergency flashers, and turn signals to make sure all are in proper working order and cleared of snow and ice so you have full visibility of the road and other drivers will be able to see you.
- Check windshield wipers and fluid. Having fully functioning windshield wipers is essential when driving in winter weather. Check the blades and replace cracked or broken ones and clear the arms of snow and ice to ensure proper movement. If expecting snow, you can pull them up the night before to prevent the arms from freezing into place overnight. Make sure the windshield wiper fluid is full and you are using a type that includes window deicer.
- Inspect the tires. Most winter weather-related accidents happen when the tires lose traction to the road in slippery, wet, or icy conditions. Make sure your tires are not worn or bald and have sufficient deeply grooved tread. Replace the tires if necessary and consider installing snow tires during the winter months. Tire pressure drops during cold temperatures, so check the gauge regularly and fill as necessary.
- Check the battery. Battery power drops in cold weather and gas and diesel engines require more battery power to start, reducing the battery life quicker than in warmer climates. The driving range for electric and hybrid-electric cars reduces in colder temperatures as well.
- Study the owner’s manual. Before traveling in snow or icy conditions, make sure you review your vehicle’s operator’s manual to familiarize yourself with the safety features and how to use them. Know whether your car is front-wheel or all-wheel drive, if you have four-wheel drive, traction control, a stability system, and whether it has an anti-lock braking system.
- Top off the tank. Keep the gas tank near full, if possible. Traffic accidents and road conditions reduce speed, traffic flow, and at times can bring traffic to a standstill. Having enough fuel to last during such situations allows you to keep the car running and heated and not become stranded. The batteries in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles have reduced energy in cold temperatures, and most use battery power to self-heat during cold conditions. During winter, plug the car in overnight to keep it as warm as possible to minimize battery drain.
- Pre-plan your route. Even if you take the same route every day, take the time to check the weather, road conditions, and if any roads on your route are closed.
- Stock up for emergencies. Before winter arrives, gather items you may need and store them in your vehicle ahead of time, such as:
- Ice scraper, snow shovel, broom, or any other tool to clear snow and ice from your vehicle
- Cat litter or sand to help wheels gain traction if they become stuck in snow
- Jumper cables, flashlights, flares and emergency markers, and a coat or coveralls with high visibility reflective markings to help other drivers see you should you need to be out of your vehicle
- Blankets and additional warm clothing should you have to stay in your car for a long period because of stopped traffic, accidents, and the like
- Chargers for cell phones and other electronic devices should you need to call for help
- Food, water, and medications
Safety Tips While Driving
- Light your way. Turn on all exterior lights and make sure reflective markings are visible. Using the lights allows you greater visibility and increases the other motorists’ ability to see you.
- Slow down. Posted speed limits are based on perfect road and weather conditions: sunny, dry, and clear. In winter, roads become wet, snow-covered, and icy, and traveling the speed limit or higher increases the possibility of an accident. The faster your wheels turn in such conditions reduces your tires’ ability to maintain traction, making it easier for them to slide across a surface rather than grip it, causing you to lose control.
- Accelerate slowly. When first embarking on your trip or after stopping at lights and intersections, begin moving gradually and gain speed at a slower pace to allow the tires to maintain traction. Abrupt and jerking movements on ice and snow increases the risk of sliding, so move more slowly when turning and making lane changes as well.
- Increase your distance. In winter conditions, the recommended distance between you and the car ahead of you is double that of dry weather driving. In dangerous snow and ice situations, that number can be up to 10 times the distance. Putting more space between you and other cars allows you more reaction time and the ability to maneuver around vehicles should problems arise.
- Reduce the sound. Turn off radios, Bluetooth speakers, phones, and do not wear ear buds while driving so that you can listen to the road. Tires make different sounds on different materials. Tires make more sound on snow than ice and are relatively loud. In contrast, tires make much less or no sound on ice, so if the sounds stop abruptly, you are encountering ice.
- Be wary of bridges, ramps, and overpasses. When temperatures dip below freezing, the areas of roadways without ground underneath, such as bridges, ramps, and overpasses, freeze first and the likelihood of encountering ice on these structures increases.
- Eliminate distractions. Do not drive and text, read emails, watch videos, make calls, take pictures, or engage in any other activities that take your attention away from the road.
Mount Laurel Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Help Clients Involved in Collisions Caused by Winter Weather Conditions
If you have been involved in an accident due to snow and icy conditions, the seasoned Mount Laurel car accident lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman are available to help. We will advocate on your behalf and fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us at 856-751-2345 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Mount Laurel and surrounding areas.