As winter approaches, drivers begin to face non-traditional hazards when behind the wheel. If you are hoping to avoid an insurance claim this holiday season, here are a few tips to keep you safe on those snowy, slushy, or icy roads that lead to almost 25% of weather-related crashes.
Winter conditions can make it difficult to see, slow down, or stop and lead to more accidents. If you must travel during extreme winter weather, you can prepare your car in advance and minimize your risk of a potential accident. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast and driving based on road conditions will help you face the elements confidently.
As temperatures begin to drop, make sure your car is stocked with some key items such as an ice scraper, extra warm clothes, and gloves, and ensure your spare tire is properly inflated. In Texas, we do not have to deal with extreme snow or ice very often, but if you live in a more rural location, it is not a bad idea to have some sand or road salt in your vehicle if the forecast is predicting these conditions.
During the winter months, you will want to ensure that your windshield fluid is full and your wipers are in good condition. It is also a good practice to keep your gas tank full in case you find yourself in a stranded situation and need to run the heater to stay warm. Keeping your tank full when the weather is cold for extended periods of time will also minimize the amount of water vapor in your tank which can freeze and cause issue in your gas lines. If you have a vehicle that is not used as often you should drive or run it in a well-ventilated area at least every few days to avoid a dead battery.
If you plan to travel when inclement weather looms, monitor road and weather conditions by checking local news stations or Internet traffic and weather sites. You can sign up for weather alerts to receive text messages and optional alerts for your area. Do not check your phone while driving and avoid all unnecessary distractions when you’re behind the wheel.
Before you leave the driveway or parking lot, take time to clear snow and ice off your car, including your windows, mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof, and trunk. Drive with your headlights on and be sure to keep them clean to improve visibility. Use caution when snowbanks limit your view of oncoming traffic.
As you get on the road, remember that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads covered in snow and ice. You should reduce your speed and increase your following distance as road conditions and visibility worsen. Avoid using cruise control in snowy or icy conditions – you want to have as much control over your car as possible. Be cautious on bridges and overpasses as they are commonly the first areas to become icy. Avoid passing snowplows and sand trucks because the drivers may have limited visibility and the road in front of them could be worse than the road behind.
If you are unexpectedly caught in a snowstorm and are stranded or get stuck in snow, if your car is safely out of harm’s way, stay in your car and wait for help. You can run the car heater to stay warm for 10 minutes every hour, but first, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow. There is a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if snow blocks the pipe and enables the deadly gas to build up in your car. Open your window slightly to help prevent any buildup.
Remember, driving in winter weather can be challenging, even for experienced drivers. Slowing down, allowing increased time to come to a stop, wearing your seatbelt, devoting your full attention to the road and being aware of changing conditions can help you drive more safely. If your travel route takes you into remote areas with limited cell phone coverage, consider informing a third party of your travel plans and share with them your route and when you plan to arrive. This way, if you are overdue, first responders will know where to start looking. If you’re unsure whether it is safe to drive, consider waiting until the roads improve.
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