Tips for Steering Clear of Accidents When Winter Weather Strikes

Did you know that fatal traffic accidents increase 14 percent on the first snowfall of the season? And non-fatal accidents rates increase on all snow days, according to research by the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health.

Safe Winter Driving Tips


Check your car before hitting the road. Remove snow that might be covering your headlights, tail lights and turn signals. Also clear snow from your car’s roof, hood and trunk so it doesn’t loosen while driving and obscure your visibility or hit the windshield of a car behind you. Remember that tire pressure decreases as temperatures drop, so check your tire pressure. Also make sure that your car’s windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze and gas tanks are filled before heading out in bad driving conditions.

Adjust your driving speed according to the weather conditions. Poor visibility, plus snow or ice on the roads, make it harder to see oncoming hazards and more difficult to slow down, stop or take evasive actions when necessary. Even vehicles that are equipped for adverse conditions—such as SUVs and vehicles with four-wheel drive—need to drive more slowly in rain, snow, sleet and ice.

Drive more smoothly. Fast accelerations, frequent lane changes and last-minute braking may work when the roads are dry, but these maneuvers can all cause your car to lose traction, begin fishtailing, slide off the road or into another vehicle when roads are wet and slippery. Allow more time to speed up, slow down and change lanes when driving in bad weather.

Skip the cruise control. Your car doesn’t necessarily know that the weather outside is frightful—and cruise control may not respond correctly if your car starts to hydroplane or skid on icy roads. Now that winter is on its way, ditch the cruise control until spring returns.

Leave extra distance between your car and the car ahead of you. It’s estimated that it takes twice the distance to break in wet driving conditions and 10 times the distance to brake in icy conditions. If the driver in front of you stops quickly and you’re tailgating, it can easily cause a car crash. You’ll be the one who is at fault and could possibly be facing a personal injury lawsuit.

Assume that other drivers will cause collisions. Even if you’ve taken all of the appropriate precautions, you can’t trust that the drivers around you have done the same. Always drive defensively, but particularly when bad weather strikes. Put the cell phone away, eliminate distractions, allow extra time to get to where you’re going and pay attention to other drivers.

Don’t hesitate to stay home. If the weather outside is frightful, don’t hesitate to say no to driving. Fewer cars on the road make it easier for road crews to spread salt or sand and plow streets—making the roads safer for all drivers.

Be prepared in case a car accident does occur. Make sure that you have your driver’s license, car registration and automobile insurance card with you every time you get behind the wheel. If you’re involved in an accident, move the car to a safe place and immediately contact the police. Exchange information with the other driver but do not say anything that could indicate you’re possibly at fault. If you have a camera on your cell phone, take photographs of the scene of the accident, preferably pictures that show your car in the location where the accident occurred. Also ensure that you photograph your car’s damage and the damage to the other driver. Your car insurance company and your auto accident lawyer may ask for this information.

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