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Winter Driving Hazards

We face numerous serious winter driving hazards over the next few days.  The forecast is calling for the first significant winter weather in our area this year. Many people equate winter weather auto accidents with fender-benders. Yet we should also pay attention to the danger of serious and even fatal crashes on snowy or icy roads.  

Most people do not recognize the staggering number of weather-related crashes during the winter months. According to the Federal Highway Administration (US Department of Transportation) icy road conditions play a role in 536,731 crashes each year. These crashes cause 136,309 injuries and1,836 deaths each year on snowy, slushy or icy pavement.

156,164 crashes 3% of vehicle crashes 13% of weather-related crashes
41,860 persons injured 2% of crash injuries 11% of weather-related injuries
521 persons killed 2% of crash fatalities 10% of weather-related fatalities

With snow and ice approaching, let’s review some tips for safe driving in winter weather. We do not want you or your loved ones to be among those injured or killed in a weather-related crash this year.

Before the Snow Flies

  • Have your car winterized. Check your battery and the electrical system. Replace antifreeze (every two years). Check tires for pressure and tread depth. Be sure you are using winter oil. Check the brakes. Have your mechanic check the exhaust system to ensure there are no carbon monoxide leaks, and check all vehicle lights, especially the headlights and tail lights.
  • Keep a windshield scraping device and a small broom in your trunk to remove snow and ice that may accumulate on your vehicle.
  • Create and keep in your trunk a disaster kit. It should include blankets, sleeping bags and extra warm clothing and cold-weather accessories (gloves, battery heater), a lighter or matches, plastic bags (for sanitation), snacks and high-energy snacks, bottled water, jumper cables, a flashlight and extra batteries, and a first aid kit.
  • Keep your cell phone charged, and keep a charger in your vehicle.
  • Keep your gas tank full. First, a full gas tank provides extra weight (think traction), it will keep your fuel line from freezing, and you will have gas to help you cope with an emergency.
  • Tell someone where you are going, what route you plan to travel, and when you expect to arrive.

When Driving in Snow or Ice

  • Accelerate slowly. Slamming your foot on the gas pedal will cause you to lose traction and possibly spin out of control.
  • Brake slowly and gradually. Remember that you will need additional time to slow down safely.
  • Slow Down. Allow more time to do anything in snow or ice.  Give yourself the space and the time to be safe.
  • Increase your stopping distance to 8 to 10 seconds (from 3 to 4 seconds).
  • Know your brakes and how much pressure is needed on the pedal to apply steady braking.
  • Keep moving if possible. It will be safer to slow down and to accelerate if you are moving slowly.
  • Don’t try to race up a hill. This will just get you stuck when your wheels start spinning. Instead, build up a little bit of speed before the incline. Use the inertia to and gentle pressure on the gas pedal to carry you to the top of the hill. Then slow down enough to drive down the hill slowly and evenly.
  • Best advice: stay home. No matter how well youdrive, if it is not absolutely necessary that you go somewhere, just stay home.
  • Remain alert and remember that black ice probably will not be visible.
  • If you encounter a slick spot, remain calm,avoid over-correcting, and steer into the direction of the slide.

All of us at Altizer Law, P.C., hope that these tips will help you to drive safely during winter storms. If you or a loved one is injured due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another driver, call us and discuss the accident with Bettina Altizer. She will help you evaluate the crash, your injuries, and your right to pursue financial compensation for your hurts and harms.