While few of us enjoy driving in winter weather conditions, it is often impossible to avoid it if you need to get the kids to school, get to work, get your groceries in, or are traveling home for the holidays.
However, there are ways to stay safer on the road this winter that may help you avoid an accident.
Check Your Vehicle before You Set Out
Be prepared before you go anywhere, even if it’s just down the street, as accidents can happen at any time.
- Check your tires have the correct air pressure and that the tread isn’t worn.
- Switch to snow tires, especially if you don’t have all-wheel drive.
- Have your car serviced or check all your fluid levels are correct.
- Check your brakes, seatbelts, spark plugs, and battery.
- Make sure your windshield is clean, and you have wiper fluid. It is better to clean your windshield while the car is stationary, as in icy conditions, wiper fluid can freeze and cause visibility problems while driving.
- Make sure you have enough gas before you travel, more than enough for your journey, as you will need it to keep warm if you’re stuck in traffic.
- Ensure your front and rear headlights are working correctly so that other drivers can see you.
- Check your antifreeze levels.
Check the Weather before You Go
If you can avoid driving in hazardous weather conditions, do! It’s a surefire way to prevent a car accident. If you have to travel, leave with plenty of time to spare. That way, you can take your time, drive slowly, and take more breaks, as driving in tricky conditions is very stressful. Remember, it’s always better to be late than rush and get into a collision.
Increase Your Awareness on the Road
Driving conditions in winter are more dangerous as it is darker, and heavy rain and snow cause visibility issues. You may not see hazards due to other vehicle headlamps and lack of street lighting in rural areas.
Make sure you drive slower when visibility is poor due to low light or poor weather. Keep your distance between other vehicles, so you are less likely to collide if they have to emergency brake. Remember, speed limits are not what you should be hitting in bad weather, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) advises that you should reduce your speed by one-third on wet roads and half on snow-packed roads.
Black ice can be hard to see, especially at night, making it harder to turn, accelerate or decelerate, so driving more slowly can reduce the chances of a crash or make the impact less serious. Don’t use cruise control in wet or icy conditions, either.
If you are feeling tired, take a break. With 16% to 21% of fatal crashes likely involving drowsy driving in the US, it’s not worth the risk, especially in the winter when driving conditions are poor.
One of the most significant things to be aware of is that other drivers may not be as sensible as you and will take risks. You can’t predict another driver’s behavior. They might change lanes without signaling, drive too close, or drive too fast in dangerous conditions.
If the worst happens and you get into an accident on the road this winter, the first thing you should do is call the police if you can. Even if you or any other parties are uninjured and there is only minor damage to your vehicles, it may be difficult to ascertain who was at fault in treacherous conditions. You should seek medical treatment even if you feel ok at the time, as shock can sometimes blanket the pain. The police will prepare a crash report, and if the other driver is intoxicated or speeding, this will be documented.
You should also consider speaking to a personal injury lawyer, as they can help you claim compensation to cover your medical bills, loss of earnings, vehicle damage costs, and for any pain and suffering caused by the accident.