Safe Driving Tips for Winter Weather - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 19, 2016

Safe Driving Tips for Winter Weather

Snow, sleet and ice all increase the risk of car accidents.

Winter weather increases the risk of car
accidents, which can lead to injuries or trauma.

It’s always important to be careful and cautious when you’re behind the wheel. But it’s even more important when winter weather takes a turn for the worse, making road conditions dangerous.

Snow, sleet and ice all increase the risk of car accidents, which can be devastating. Here’s you can avoid one this winter.

Make Sure Your Car Is Prepped and Ready

Before you hit the snowy roads, make sure your car is prepared to handle the cold and wintery conditions. That means checking and maintaining your car’s systems and equipment, such as windshield wiper fluid, windshield wipers, defrosters, floor mats and tires – all of these elements impact your ability to see the roads clearly and drive safely.

It’s also important to make sure your car is stocked with an ice scraper, snow shovel, broom, sand or salt, jumper cables, a flash light, warning devices like markers and flares, blankets, a cell phone charger, water, food and any necessary medicine in case of emergency.

If your car is covered in snow, you’ve got some work before you can drive it – please don’t be one of those people that drives around with six inches of snow on their car, mindlessly letting big packs of snow go flying onto other cars. You need to clear all the snow covering your vehicle, including from the roof, mirrors, headlights, tail lights and license plates. And, when your car is running, make sure to clear any snow that may be blocking your tailpipe – not doing so could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Be Alert and Use Caution on the Roads

Posted speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads covered in ice and snow. That means you need to reduce your speed and increase your following distance behind cars when road conditions and visibility worsen. In normal conditions, you’re supposed to maintain a following distance of three seconds between your car and the car in front of you – in winter weather, increase that distance to a full eight to 10 seconds.

Not only should you drive at a slower rate of speed, but you should also accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying gas slowly is the best way to accelerate while regaining traction and avoiding skidding. And take your time slowing down for a traffic light or stop sign – it takes longer to slow down on icy roads and slamming on the brakes can cause you to lose control.

Know how to brake your car when you’re driving on slippery surfaces. Whether you have anti-lock brakes or not, the best way to stop your car is with threshold breaking – keep your heel on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.

And if you start to skid, here’s what to do:

  • Don’t panic
  • Don’t slam on your brakes
  • Take your foot off of the gas pedal
  • Steer your car in the direction you want to go
  • Wait for your car to slow down to regain control

Planning your trip and route before you start driving can help avoid an accident. Check weather, road and traffic conditions and plan to leave early to give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Your safest option is to stay home if you don’t really have to go out or wait until road and weather conditions improve.

Protect Yourself and Others

Anytime you’re driving or riding in a vehicle, you should be wearing your seatbelt. If you’re driving, make sure any of your passengers are also buckled up. Don’t ever text or do anything else distracting when you’re behind the wheel.

If you’re fatigued or have been drinking, do not drive.

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