Winter is proving increasingly unpredictable (polar vortex, anyone?) and more treacherous for driver. That’s especially true in regions of the country that have been hit with sudden, atypical freezes.
Yet, no matter how many advisories are issued, roll overs, multi-car pile-ups, and highway blockages continue to make daily news. Before you head out, make sure you’ve reviewed those safety measures most likely to save you and your passengers. These are tips many of us have learned, but judging by the frequent accident reports, we’ve probably forgotten:
1. Don’t Rely on Antilock Brakes
Antilock brakes (ABS) are standard on most vehicles, but they’re not foolproof. Even advanced braking systems can fail on snow and ice. Once your brakes lock, you lose control of the steering. Best to be gentle with your brakes, regardless.
2. Double Your Distance
Many winter accidents are multi-vehicle. Stopping takes longer on slick roads and hard breaking is a hazard. It’s bad enough if you get rear-ended, but it’s much worse if that collision lands the front of your car into the back of someone else’s.
3. Slow Down When Approaching a Bridge
Even if the weather is temperate. Bridge asphalt — which is more exposed and less insulated then roadways — is the first to freeze and the last to melt.
4. Turn into a Slide
The first instinct, when you start to slide, is to slam on the brakes. The next is to turn the steering wheel abruptly in the opposite direct, thus “over correcting.” Both methods will make the problem much worse. Before you start the car, remind yourself of slick spots. Should you hit one, remember to turn your wheel, gradually, in the direction of the car’s rear until the vehicle straightens.
5. Listen to the Weather Forecast and Road Report
Seems every time there’s a major snow storm, cars — and the people inside them — wind up stranded on the interstate. Get the weather/road report ahead of time. If the outlook’s unsavory, don’t leave at rush hour and stay off the freeway.
6. Check Engine Vitals
This includes coolant levels and battery charge. It will help ensure your car doesn’t fail in your time of need.
7. Don’t Be a Hero
It’s pretty likely the driver behind you did not read this list and is driving a little too close. Should you come across an accident scene or a stranded driver, don’t slow suddenly so you can pull over. It will probably lead to another accident. Wait till you can safely pull into a parking lot and call 911.
8. Wear Your Seatbelt
Yes, this is obvious. Unfortunately, minor accidents still turn into hospital visits because too many people don’t buckle up. Wearing a safety belt is imperative — even more so in the winter.
9. Drive Slower Than You Think You Should
Every winter, we hear reports of a driver in an all-wheel drive SUV who slid off the side of the road, or worse, flipped and rolled. In these incidents, the driver was almost always traveling too fast. Generally, it’s best to stick to 40 mph when road conditions are questionable.
10. Wait or Take Public Transit
Anything above a level I snow emergency — i.e. 4 inches of snowfall or a significant amount of ice or freezing rain — is considered too dangerous for non-commercial drivers, even drivers who think they know how. If the roads are questionable, use public transit, wait till the roads are cleared, or forgo the trip altogether. Try to do all necessary errands before the snow falls. Slick, winter road conditions are the most accident-prone for drivers. It’s not worth the risk.