Author | Joseph Gross
Winter is coming.
As winter weather is starting to set in throughout the country, I thought it would be a good time to provide some winter driving tips. After all, this week alone has seen devastating effects from Argos including several 10+ car pileups and dozens of injuries caused by what was over a foot of snow that fell in some spots.
On average, more than 100 people die every day from car crashes in the United States. Contrary to mainstream belief, summer and fall months see more deadly crashes than winter or spring months—but that doesn’t mean winter weather isn’t capable of wreaking some serious havoc. Consider these facts:
- Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.
- Every year, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet.
- About 70 percent of the accidental deaths that occur in the wintertime happen in automobiles.
- Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.
- Freeway speeds are reduced by 3 to 13 percent in light snow and by 5 to 40 percent in heavy snow.
- Average speeds on arterial roads decline by 30 to 40 percent on snowy or slushy pavement.
- Winter road maintenance accounts for roughly 20 percent of state Department of Transportation maintenance budgets.
[For more facts on how all weather events impact road conditions and stats from the Federal Highway Administration visit here.]
Let’s try to get these numbers closer to zero with some of these simple winter driving tips. Also, if you haven’t heard of the Towards Zero Deaths initiative, it’s worth checking out here.
- Avoid sudden stops, starts, or lane changes.
- Keep a greater distance.
- Avoid using cruise control.
- Avoid coming to a complete stop if you can.
- Use a lower gear when going down hill.
- Avoid fish-tailing by beginning to accelerate going straight before a turn.
- Get to know your vehicle and how it reacts. How much pressure until your brakes lock up, how much do I need to turn the wheel, etc.?
- If you are a novice or not comfortable driving in snow, many places offer classes and courses like Winter Drivers Ed in which you can practice in a controlled setting. They are typically less than $200, significantly less expensive than the cost of an accident.
- If your vehicle does skid, steer in the direction the car’s rear end is traveling to recover traction and straighten out.
- Avoid passing snow plows and sand trucks. The drivers can have limited visibility, and the road in front of them could be worse than the road behind.
- Drive with your lights on.
- Most importantly, and this is for year-round driving, GET OFF YOUR CELL PHONE and pay attention to your surroundings!
- And if the weather is really bad out, stay at home unless you really have to be out in the conditions.
Some helpful preparedness tips:
- Have your car winterized before the winter storm season starts.
- Get good snow tires. “You wouldn’t go golfing in bowling shoes and you wouldn’t go bowling in golfing shoes,” says Mark Stolberg, Vice President of training at MasterDrive, a company that offers winter driving courses.
- Keep your cell phone charged or invest in a car charger specifically for your car so you do not need to remember to bring it with you.
- Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in your trunk, in case you need to remove snow and ice. Many scrapers come with a brush attached. Purchase a good scraper, not the least expensive. It will be the difference between performing its function and you having to improvise in below freezing temperatures because your scraper broke in half.
- If you park with your windshield facing east, the morning sun will thaw it out quicker. The north side of buildings will always be icier as well.
- Have a spare gallon of wiper fluid handy.
- Make sure your exhaust pipe is unobstructed before starting your car.
- Clear all windows and lights from snow before leaving, as well as the roof and hood. Snow can slide off the roof or up from the hood on to the windshield creating temporary lack of sight.
- Keep a disaster supplies kit in the trunk of your car. Contents include the basics: blankets or sleeping bags, extra sets of clothing and cold-weather gear accessories, a towel, a gallon of water, plastic bags (for sanitation), a roll of toilet paper (just in case), a bag of salt or kitty litter, high-energy snacks like nuts, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a first aid kit.
- An empty, clean can is a great candle holder that can supply light and heat. Keep a lighter or matches handy to be able to light the candles as well.
- Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full—both in case of emergencies and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Tell someone that you’re on your way and give an ETA.
Stay safe this winter, especially when getting out to enjoy the awesome things winter has to offer. It would be a shame to wreck your car on your way to the slopes, ice fishing, snowshoeing, tubing, winter camping, or what else you love to do in the winter months.
TO GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT WINTER DRIVING, READ THE FREE SAFE WINTER DRIVING TIPS SHEET.