Winter is here, and to accommodate those stuck in the icy grips of a Polar Vortex, the legal team at Montlick and Associates reviews top winter driving tips to keep you safe. Driving a car in the winter presents unique challenges. Here are six tips all drivers should consider:
Driving on snowy or icy roads is different from traveling on a clear, dry surface. The biggest challenge is not for the car, but for the person driving it. Reducing speed and leaving plenty of room between cars is common but potentially life-saving advice.
Videos of the massive traffic jams that tend to occur during snowstorms can be worrisome to drivers. More disturbing are the shots of drivers speeding past stranded motorists. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 30% of fatal accidents in the U.S. are related to excessive speed. For your own sake and for the safety of the drivers around you, please slow down.
Leave Space Between Cars
Common sense tells us that it takes longer to stop a car on icy, wet, or snow-covered roads. A report by the government of Canada lays out just how big a difference winter weather makes to braking distance.
The report found that “braking distance on a wet road is nearly twice that of the braking distance on a dry road. The coefficient of friction diminishes on a snowy or icy road, which can increase from four to eight times the braking distance.”
When driving in winter conditions, leave extra space between you and the car in front of you. Other drivers may cut in, but if you keep a safe distance regardless, you will get to your destination without incident.
Slow and Steady
Winter driving is confusing because the normal rules of driving are slightly altered. On a dry road, the more you accelerate, the faster you go. On winter roads, the more you accelerate, the more likely it becomes that your car will spin out of control.
When starting off, gently accelerate to a safe speed. If the tires are spinning, simply ease off the gas and allow the wheels a chance to find traction. If a vehicle is stuck, do not continue to push on the gas pedal, as this will cause the tires to spin. Spinning tires will polish the icy surface and dig the car in even further.
David Montlick, CEO & Founder of Montlick and Associates, reviews one top tip for driving well in winter.
"Rather than treating bad weather as a driving challenge to be overcome, drivers really need to view it as a dangerous condition requiring extreme caution,” Montlick said. “Don’t worry about being late. Worry about getting to your destination safely. And when conditions get bad, the safest practice is of course to avoid driving and stay off the road if you possibly can.”
Gentle on the Brakes
Braking on ice is a dangerous maneuver, even if you have left the correct amount of space between cars. According to the US Department of Transportation, the safest way to stop a vehicle is to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal with the ball of your foot, a method called “threshold braking.” Slamming on the brakes can cause the car to lose control or spin.
David Montlick of Montlick and Associates reviews the cost of poor braking: “Incorrect braking causes an enormous number of personal injuries. There is just no way to protect yourself from an out-of-control car.”
Maintain the Car
The need for basic maintenance becomes more important in winter driving conditions. You do not want to be stranded on a frozen, deserted road without gas, so having a full tank is a must. Be sure that all the fluid levels are topped up. This includes oil, anti-freeze, and windshield washer fluid.
Ensure that your tires are filled to the recommended pressure. Additionally, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation recommends that you clear away any snow from your windshield, head lights, and tail lights before venturing out.
If you are stranded on a deserted highway, having an operating vehicle could save your life.
Prepare for the Worst
Be prepared is more than just a motto for the Boy Scouts. It can be the difference between a miserable night in a cold car or a comfortable, albeit frustrating, wait. Keep a warm jacket, hat, and gloves in the car. If you plan to spend any time in the car, have some food, water, and a fully charged phone with you.
It should go without saying, but texting while driving is never safe. Keep a cell phone with you, but the safest practices is not to use it while driving. One of the most important things you can do while driving on winter roads is to pay attention to your surroundings.
Winter driving is a challenge. Severe weather is both dangerous and frightening, especially if you are not an experienced winter driver. The best advice is to stay home whenever possible.
If you do have to take to the road, knowledge and preparation are key. In an effort to prepare you for the obstacles you may face during winter driving, the legal team at Montlick and Associates reviews winter driving best practices and offers essential tips for keeping you and your family safe this winter.