While snow’s chilling beauty can help you get in the holiday spirit, nothing takes the fa-la-las out of the holidays quicker than a fender-bender or spin-out. So despite all the hustle and bustle this time of year, it’s important to take a moment to slow down and be patient, especially on the road.
Above all, drive much more cautious when winter weather strikes and avoid these top driving mistakes…
Each year, more than 115,000 people are injured in car accidents on snowy, slushy or icy roads. Possibly the most notorious culprit of these accidents is black ice. This variety of ice is highly slippery and transparent, taking on the color of the surface of the road it’s on.
Black ice is like a pop quiz… you can’t always see it coming, but how you handle it when your tires start to slide determines pass or fail. If you know the warning signs of ice, you’ll be better prepared and proceed with extra caution. Indicators that ice may be present include temperatures near or below freezing, falling precipitation and ice or snow sticking to your vehicle or other elevated objects.
Is it safe to say we’ve all been there? You rush out the door because you hit the snooze button a few too many times; quickly scrape off a small patch of ice from the windshield to use as a peephole because the car is taking too long to defrost; crouch over the steering wheel to see the best you can before making a turn… Let’s just stop right here and make a pact to never do that again.
It’s guaranteed that the time spent fully defrosting the windshield and windows will make you far less late than the time it takes to fill out an accident report, be pulled from a ditch or worse. Never compromise visibility when driving, especially when winter weather strikes.
All of you truck and SUV drivers, don’t let your 4WD or AWD make you overconfident. Yes, 4WD is great for getting through rough terrain, but it is little help on ice. Trying to out-drive the conditions is a surefire way to cause an accident.
A good rule of thumb is to note the speed the majority of the other people on the road are driving and follow suit or go even slower. Drive just as cautious as you would if your vehicle wasn’t a 4WD or AWD.
This one may get the award for the all-time biggest winter driving mistake. It’s so tempting to hit your brakes when you feel a sudden loss of control, but being a wise driver means fighting that impulse. In most instances, the best thing to do when find yourself sliding is to simply remove your foot from the gas pedal, keep your gaze in the direction you want to go and hold the wheel steady as you turn it toward the direction that your back tires are sliding.
Overcorrecting—whipping the wheel one way or another too quickly—will only escalate the situation.
Also, in poor weather conditions, make it a habit to keep at least three times the normal following distance. Likewise, when approaching a red light or stop sign, you should allow ten times the distance to stop. However, if you’re in a situation where it is absolutely necessary to slow down quickly, the best thing to do is lightly tap your brake pedal repeatedly.
Snow falling can dramatically hinder the visibility of all cars on the road. If yours is a white or light-colored vehicle, then it can be extra difficult for other drivers to see you if your headlights aren’t turned on. This poses a danger to yourself and others.
Many drivers keep their headlights in the automatic position. If that is you, you might not remember to manually turn your headlights on so cars can see you better. We suggest leaving a sticky note on your dash during winter months as a reminder.
The list of winter driving mistakes could go on and on, but if you remember the five common mistakes listed above, you will be much more prepared.
Also, follow these winter driving tips:
- Adjust your speed according to the weather. Posted speed limits were made with dry pavement conditions in mind.
- Don’t use cruise control. Your foot on the gas pedal gives you more control and the ability to react more quickly.
- Keep your gaze ahead. Looking a few cars ahead will allow you to anticipate stops in advance, so you won’t find yourself slamming on the brakes.
- Get your vehicle is winter-ready. Make sure your tires and windshield wipers are in good shape.
- Store emergency supplies in your vehicle. A blanket, shovel, flashlight and flares are important items to keep in your trunk in case you find yourself waiting on the side of the road for assistance.
Lastly, you are the person who is ultimately responsible for your own safety. If you are in doubt about your ability to make it to your destination safely, slide on your comfy pants, grab a cup of cocoa and take a snow day.
Speed Patrol’s radar speed sign is an excellent tool to remind drivers to slow down in residential areas after winter bad weather strikes. Click here to learn more.