Top Tips for Safe Driving in Snow and Ice

Do you know what to do if you catch a skid? Here’s what the experts say about driving safely this winter.

Nearly 70% of the US population lives in snowy regions. That means millions of people have to navigate icy and snow-covered roads a few months of the year. Just how challenging it can be is illustrated by statistics from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). These conditions exist in Truckee, Tahoe, Mammoth, CA., Shasta and Modoc County, CA., and Yreka, CA., among other areas..

When it comes to weather-related vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement, the annual tally is as follows:

  • 24% of crashes occur in such conditions
  • 1,300 people are killed
  • 116,800 people are injured

Snowfall and sleet also make for difficult driving with the following tragic results:

  • 15% of crashes occur in such conditions
  • 900 people are killed
  • 76,000 are injured

To keep drivers as safe as possible when temperatures drop, modern vehicles come equipped with a range of advanced safety features. They work in tandem with your own efforts to responsibly maneuver your car, truck, or crossover as heavy snow reduces visibility and forces freeway speeds down by 5 to 40%, according to the FHWA.

What can drivers do to drive safely this winter?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urges all drivers to prepare both themselves and their vehicles. Lights, windshield wipers, batteries, and cooling systems should all be checked to ensure optimal performance. NHTSA also highlights a few other areas that require special attention:

Inspect the tires

Fill the tires to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which drops with lower outside temperatures. The tires should also be inspected at least once a month and before long road trips. For adequate snow traction, Tire Rack recommends at least a 6/32-inch deep thread. NHTSA, on the other hand, notes that the thread should be 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.

Your location will ultimately decide which type of tire is the best fit, according to Edmunds, an automotive website. If the roads in your area are covered with snow most of the time, Edmunds maintains four winter tires are the best choice. NHTSA’s Tires page provides reviews of tire safety ratings

Secure floor mats

Improperly installed floor mats can interfere with the operation of the vehicle. The mat can get stuck under, or block access to, the accelerator or brake pedal. The solution is following the manufacturer’s instructions for mat installation and using retention clips to keep the mats in place.

Stock your vehicle

Plan for uncertainty by stocking up on items that you may need in the event of an emergency. A snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper are necessary to clear ice and snow before you leave. Abrasive materials, such as sand or cat litter, can help you get traction if your vehicle gets stuck in the snow. Jumper cables, flashlights, and warning devices can your car started and keep you safe while immobile on the side of the road. A blanket can offer protection from the cold. Finally, it helps to bring any necessary medicine, water, food, as well as a cell phone and charger.

Fill gas or charge up

NHTSA cautions against getting on the road unless your gas tank is close to full or electric vehicle battery fully charged. If traffic slows on icy roads or comes to a halt in a snowstorm, you must have enough juice to make it home.

Drive responsibly

Reducing speed is the most basic and important step in response to wintry road conditions.

What should you do if you catch a skid?

Despite your best efforts, you may still find your vehicle skidding in icy conditions. An Edmunds expert recommends drivers do the following to regain control in the event of a front-tire skid:

“Smoothly release the accelerator, leave your hands where they are and allow the car to slow down. Turning the steering wheel more or pushing the brake pedal is like using a canceled credit card: It does nothing good and may do something bad if the traction suddenly returns. Learning how to catch a rear slide is a different matter. It’s like learning how to hit a curveball or play the piano: It takes lots and lots of practice.”

What vehicle features offer additional protection for winter driving?

Advanced safety features

Edmund experts point out modern cars come loaded with automated safety features that dramatically impact road performance. Antilock brakes and stability control are government required while others such as adaptive headlights, forward collision avoidance, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure prevention are increasingly becoming standard. The result is improved control when snowfall decreases visibility and the roads become slick.

All-wheel drive

Over half of new vehicles sold in the U.S. are equipped with either all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), according to Jato Dynamics, a London-based automotive intelligence firm. All-wheel and four-wheel drive give better traction on icy and snowy roads. Consequently, you face less risk of sliding out of control or getting stuck when snow starts to accumulate.

Heated side mirrors

Heated side mirrors is a relatively new feature that is now available on most modern cars. With the help of electrical heating elements, they keep outside mirrors free from fog and ice.

Windshield wiper de-icers

Snow and ice can render windshield wipers useless. A de-icer serves to thaw frozen wipers, preventing them from getting stuck to the windshield. Although the conventional heater system also defrosts the windshield, Edmunds notes that electrical heating components get the job done faster.

Contact Penney & Associates

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident, seek legal help to receive the compensation that you deserve. The lawyers at Penney & Associates have decades of experience and are experts in wrongful death and personal injury law. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

Read more:

How safe is driving in snow and rain?
Wrongful death: Who can bring a lawsuit and 4 more facts you should know
What’s causing the rise in motorcycle fatalities?

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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