Getting behind the frosted wheel in the winter is far different from driving at any other time of year. The snow, ice, and the cold temperatures make it difficult for drivers to maintain vehicle control. Steering and stopping on snowy and icy roads is tricky, as tires struggle to get a good grip on such surfaces. In the winter, drivers have to take extra caution by maintaining a safe following distance, braking early, and avoiding sudden braking and accelerating. But to stay safe on the road, you'll need more than caution, let's take a look at some additional considerations for winter driving:
One of the Coldest Winters on Record in the U.S.
This winter has been extremely cold; winter storms have brought heavy snow throughout the country, and several regions have been hit with arctic chill and record low temperatures. These conditions have obviously affected driving a lot and have led to break-downs and an increased number of car accidents.
Conditions to Watch
High winds, low temperatures, fog, rain, and heavy snow reduce visibility, which affects handling and increases the risk of accidents. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 24% of all vehicle crashes are weather-related. Statistics show that most accidents occur during rainfall, when driving on icy or snow-covered roads, as well as when driving in fog.
Also, statistics from many states show that the majority of injuries that occur during snow and ice storms result from car accidents. We are currently experiencing this statistic. Many cities around the country are facing freezing temperatures, accompanied by 4-5 inches of snow and it's wreaking havoc on highways, causing vehicles to slide across roads. This has caused countless rollovers and collisions, leaving thousands injured. So be careful.
Cold Weather Affects Your Car's Performance
Car defects are most common during the winter. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with your car in weather like this. So, you need to take precautionary measures to protect it from breaking down, and leaving you stranded on the road. There are several details you have to pay attention to:
- Make sure your tires are in good shape - You have to check tire tread and pressure to ensure good traction on slippery surfaces. Also, it's highly recommended that you buy a set of winter tires, which are specifically designed for driving on snowy and icy roads.
- Check fluid levels - You have to make sure you top up your windshield wiper fluid, your antifreeze, and your oil; you never know when a storm will hit, so it's smart to be prepared.
- Check your wipers - Your car's wipers have to work properly to ensure proper visibility at all times. That's why it's good to inspect them before you hit the road; check them for cracks and wear.
- Clear your snow - Before getting in your car, you should take care of all windows, and clear the snow and ice from them. This will make sure you have good visibility, and will protect other drivers from falling debris. In some states, it is illegal not to to this.
While it is very important to inspect your car and prepare it for the winter, drivers also have to become familiar with winter safe driving techniques:
- Maintain a safe following distance - so that you can have enough time to brake or swerve if the car ahead of you stops suddenly.
- Accelerate and brake smoothly - avoid sudden turns and start braking early.
- Drive slower than usual - This will help you avoid slips and skids.
Winter Driving Essentials
In case you do get stranded, stay inside your vehicle and try and keep yourself warm, while waiting for help to arrive. To prepare for a situation like this, we recommend that you keep the following items in your car:
- first aid kit
- cell phone charger
- boots and gloves
- ice scraper
- jumper cables