Winter weather conditions lead to accidents and other dangers

According to 10-year accident statistics from the NHTSA, 21 percent of vehicle crashes are related to adverse weather or slick road conditions, including sleet, snow, slush or ice. These conditions affect both driver capabilities and vehicle performance.

If you must take to the road during winter weather conditions, here are some tips to help you prepare your vehicle ahead of time, to remember while driving, and to add to your safety and comfort if you do get stuck on the road.

Know the expected timeframe for winter weather to arrive in the region you will be driving, and stock your vehicle with the appropriate tools.

  • An ice scraper will improve your visibility of the road and the surrounding environment.
  • If your vehicle does not have four-wheel drive, a snow shovel and sand or road salt can help you get out of a snow bank or off a slick surface.

Regardless of your region, you should be checking your tires and windshield wipers regularly. When heading into winter weather conditions, there is more you should know about them.

  • Some regions require snow tires or even snow chains. Seeing these requirements or recommendations for the region is a clear indicator of the kind of conditions you should expect. In the least, you should check your tire tread and pressure.
  • In addition to having windshield wipers in top shape, you should top off your windshield fluid reservoir. Windshield fluid will help clear snow and ice from your windshield.

You’d be surprised how often people forget to fill their gas tank ahead of winter weather. Not only do you want to avoid the stop for a fill-up amid the cold, snow and wind, but you want that tank full if you do get stuck and need to run the engine to stay warm.

  • Keeping a full tank and using fuel additives will also help prevent water vapor from freezing in your gas line.

If you’re lucky, you can put off driving until the weather is milder and the roads are safer. If you’ve been snowed in or your vehicle won’t be moving for a few days through a cold spell, take time to run the engine for a few minutes every other day or so to keep the battery from going dead.

If you do have to head out and your vehicle is snow-covered, you must clear off all snow and ice. Even if it’s not a law in your area, police can still issue a fine for something like an unsecured load if they see snow and ice flying off your vehicle and causing a hazard for other drivers and pedestrians.

Also, nearly every state has laws requiring vehicles to have headlights on during low visibility. In addition, snowstorms create factors that produce obstructed views while driving, including snow banks.

Everything in this next list relates to the opening story about being stuck behind an inexperienced snow driver. Here’s what they wish they had known:

  • Reduce your speed; accelerate and brake lightly.
  • Increase your following distance and avoid sudden directional changes.
  • If your vehicle begins to slide, slowly take your foot off the gas and gently hold the steering wheel steady while the vehicle does the job of regaining traction. Then straighten your wheels as needed and slowly accelerate to resume your drive.

These additional tips will help you maintain control of your vehicle during winter driving conditions:

  • Don’t use cruise control.
  • Heed the caution signs that say “Bridge Freezes Before Road Surface.”
  • Take extra care when passing, especially trucks that are treating the roads. They have far less visibility than other trucks. Also, their spray can not only impede your driving but also damage your vehicle.

Finally, let others know of your intended route, just in case.

In 2016, hundreds of drivers were stranded for more than 24 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when a historic snowstorm took regional highway patrol teams by surprise.

If you find yourself in this kind of situation, stay in your car and wait for help. After thanking yourself for having filled the gas tank, go out and make sure your tailpipe is unobstructed. Then you can run the engine and heater for a few minutes each hour. (Recheck the tailpipe each time before starting the engine. The danger is the potential for poisonous carbon monoxide to build up inside the vehicle if the exhaust becomes blocked.)

The number one rule for driving during winter conditions is to forget about getting anywhere too fast. Then be flexible and willing to adjust your plans as weather conditions can quickly change mid-route. Don’t let a non-urgent journey turn into a life-or-death matter simply because you think you can outrun or outdo Mother Nature. Safety should always be your number one priority.

For more information about vehicle safety and insurance, contact the insurance specialists at Holman Insurance Services.

The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of insurance. The content of this blog is not an insurance policy, does not refer to any specific insurance policy, and does not modify any provisions, limitations, or exclusions expressly stated in any insurance policy. In order to fully understand the coverages and other features of a specific insurance policy, we encourage you to read the applicable policy and/or speak to a Holman Insurance Services agent. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. Coverages are subject to the terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim. References to average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, costs of coverages/repair, etc., are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. We are not responsible for the content of any third-party sites linked from this page