For some, the end of November brings warm and fuzzy feelings as winter holidays approach. For others, those pleasant feelings are undercut with a twinge of dread. With winter holidays come winter weather, and winter driving.
Though there’s no way to prevent icy roads on your commute, you can take steps to prevent accidents. Whether you’re driving to work, taking the kids to school, or heading home for the holidays, try the following tips to make your winter trip a little safer:
Keep Your Car in Good Condition
Before the worst weather sets in, take an afternoon to prep your car for the winter. One of the most important things you can do to ready your car for icy roads is to check your tires. There were 738 total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2017 in tire-related crashes. If the tread has worn down, consider getting them replaced, or even invest in a good set of snow tires. Throughout the winter months, check your tires once a week to make sure they are properly inflated. Also top up essential fluids, like motor oil, antifreeze, coolant, and wiper fluid to keep your car performing optimally in tough weather conditions. Finally, check to make sure your wipers and lights are in top condition to improve visibility in winter precipitation.
In snow, sleet, and icy rain, don’t attempt to drive the speed limit, and only go as fast as conditions allow. If the pavement is slippery or if visibility is limited, reducing your speed can prevent accidents. In fact, studies suggest that lowering speed by only 0.63 miles per hour can reduce roadway accidents by 2-3%. And, if you do end up in an accident on winter roads, a slower speed can make the accident less serious.
Practice Smart Acceleration and Deceleration
Many wintertime accidents are caused by drivers who attempt to change the motion of the car too quickly. Instead of making sudden stops, starts, or turns, try accelerating and decelerating more smoothly. Rather than braking to a stop, try coasting, and only gently braking when necessary. Additionally, increase your following distance to up to eight or ten seconds, so that you don’t have to brake suddenly if the next car experiences problems.
Finally, though distractions are dangerous whenever you’re driving, they can be especially detrimental while driving in winter weather. Try to avoid talking on the phone in a snowstorm, even if you have hands-free calling. Any type of multitasking can worsen your driving performance. Even billboards can become distracting in winter weather, though 71% admit to looking at roadside advertisements. If you notice you’re losing focus on a long trip in winter weather, or getting sleepy, find a safe place to pull over and take a break. Complete concentration is the best way to drive safely in the winter.
Winter driving can be stressful and downright dangerous. However, with good preparation and defensive driving skills, you can protect your car and family through the winter holidays. Safe travels!