Winter driving is one of the largest causes of automobile accidents in the United States. Cold weather conditions, black ice, snowy roads, and other hazards mean that you’re much more likely to get in everything from a minor fender bender to a major accident during the winter.
Practicing winter driving and taking a course are some of the best ways to avoid these kinds of hazards, but you can also equip yourself with winter driving safety tips. Here are some we recommend.
> Don’t Do It: If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of driving on snowy roads, don’t do it. Take a bus or call a cab instead. Oftentimes, staying home until conditions have improved is the best course of action.
> Re-Route Your Trip: The most dangerous places to drive in winter are winding roads, hills (either up or down), and areas where snow plows can’t reach. If possible, take a different route that will avoid these common pitfalls.
> Slow Down: Always plan for a winter trip to take twice as long as a regular one, and never overestimate your ability to navigate the slippery roads. Even seasoned drivers get into winter accidents if they go too fast. There’s a common saying… “It’s better to arrive late than never.”
> Keep Your Distance: It’s very easy for one rear-end accident to turn into a ten-car pileup in the winter. Keep a safe distance from the cars around you (usually about double that of what you’d keep in ideal conditions) and don’t attempt any risky passing maneuvers.
> Change Speeds Very Carefully: Some of the most dangerous parts of driving on ice are the acceleration and deceleration stages. Never slam on the gas or the brakes, and prepare for there to be some slippage as you get going and stop.
> Don’t Overuse Your Brakes: Avoid using your brakes when it is safe to do so. It may sound counterintuitive, but braking on hills and at stoplights actually makes the road slipperier and more dangerous. Slow down by easing up on the gas, rely on your stick shift to slow down for you, and, if you do have to come to a sudden halt, pump your brakes instead of slamming them.
> Don’t Stop on Hills: If you’re heading up a hill and finding it slow going, keep pressing on. If your car comes to a full stop, chances are pretty good you won’t get it going again until the weather clears.
> Turn into a Slide: We’ve all heard the advice—turn into a skid or slide, not away from it. Although instinct might have you yanking on the wheel to correct your car’s slide, take a deep breath, gain control of the car through small and gentle movements, and get going again.
Above all else, make sure your car is equipped with a winter safety kit and that you have a phone handy in case you need to call for help.