Ice, sleet and snow can cause dangerous winter driving conditions. If you live in Texas, it is important to learn about winter driving safety before you hit the roadways during chilly weather. An estimated 24 percent of weather-related car accidents are caused by ice, slush or snow on the roadways. Through safe driving practices, you can avoid a weather-related accident.
Normally, your tires deal with friction when they are on the pavement. This friction helps your car’s traction so that you do not slip or skid. When snow and ice are present, they reduce the pavement’s natural friction. As a result, you have to deal with reduced vehicle maneuverability. Heavy sleet or hail storms can also reduce visibility, which is another danger for drivers in Texas.
Because of maneuverability issues, most cars slow down when there is ice on the road. This reduces the number of cars that can be on the road at any point in time. Ice and snow also increase the risk that you will get into a crash. On average, freeway speeds drop by 3 to 13 percent when there is light snow. On other roads, speeds can drop by up to 30 or 40 percent.
In a typical year, more than 1,300 people are killed in car accidents that happen on slushy, icy or snowy roads. Almost 900 people die because of accidents during sleet or snowfall. Because of these dangers, it is important to protect yourself when you drive during the wintertime. The Texas Department of Transportation recommends that drivers stay at home when there are dangerous winter driving conditions. If you do have to drive, the following tips can help you and your family stay safe.
Tips for Driving Safely in the Wintertime
The best recommendation for winter driving safety is to avoid traveling during severe weather. Bad weather, winter storms and bad road conditions play a role in almost half a million car accidents each year. If you absolutely have to drive during bad weather, the following tips will help you stay safe.
- Never warm up your car in an enclosed space like a garage.
- Speed limits are made for normal driving conditions. During adverse weather conditions, you should slow down.
- Put warm clothing, extra food, blankets, a flashlight, a glass scraper, food and water in your car in case you are stuck somewhere.
- You should be three times farther away from the car in front of you than normal if there is snow or ice on the road.
- If you are driving on slippery surfaces, you should never use cruise control.
- You should keep your gas tank at least half full at all times.
- Before you head out, you should make sure your tires have enough tread. They should also be properly inflated.
- Be careful when you are driving on ramps, bridges, shaded areas and overpasses because these areas tend to freeze first.
Tips for Winter Driving in the Snow
- Stay home when there is snow out. You should avoid taking any unnecessary risks unless you absolutely have to.
- If you are following behind a snowplow, you should stay at least 200 feet away from the plow.
- When it is snowing, you should drive slowly and adjust your speed to the road conditions. Cars have less traction when they are on snow and ice.
- If your car begins to slide, you should gently let off the brakes or gas pedal. Then, you should turn in the direction of the skid to gain traction again. Once you have traction, you can straighten your vehicle.
- You should maintain a following distance of at least five to six seconds so that you can have extra time to stop if something happens.
- When you are driving on snow, you should decelerate and accelerate slowly so that you do not skid.
- Since it takes longer to slow down on a snowy or icy road, you should slow down early for a stoplight or stop sign.
- You should check your car manual to see if you have anti-lock brakes. No matter what type of brakes you have, you should use the ball of your foot when you apply pressure to the brake. Your heel should remain on the floor.
- Avoid using more gas to go uphill. If you use extra gas on a snowy road, your wheels will spin. Instead, you should try to get some inertia going before you arrive at the hill. Then, the inertia can carry you to the top of the hill. Once you have reached the top, you can slow down before you go downhill.
- You should never stop while going uphill if you can help it. It is extremely difficult and dangerous to get your car moving again on an icy hill. Instead, you can build inertia on a flat road before you go uphill.
- Ideally, you should avoid stopping if you can avoid it. It takes a lot of inertia to get moving again. Instead, you can try slowing down to a roll before a traffic light changes instead of coming to a complete stop.
How to Drive on Black Ice
When you can see snow and ice on the road, it is easy to figure out when you should slow down. In Texas, black ice is a major problem on roadways. Because it is invisible, you may not realize that you are in a potentially dangerous situation. By using the following tips, you can avoid getting into a car accident this winter.
- Black ice is just like regular ice. It forms without bubbles, which is why it is so hard to see.
- If you suddenly swerve unintentionally while you are driving, then you are probably driving on black ice. Sometimes, you can see black ice because a part of the road looks shiny for no apparent reason.
- Black ice is more likely to form on shaded areas and at night. It is also more common on overpasses, bridges and the roads underneath overpasses.
- If you do skid on black ice, it is important to remain calm. In general, the best thing to do is let the car pass over the ice. You want to do as little as possible because any movement or braking could cause you to skid.
- You should try to keep your steering wheel as straight as possible. If the back end of your car starts to slide, you should slightly turn your steering wheel in the same direction as the slide. You never want to turn in the opposite direction because this can lead to your car spinning out.
- If you can safely switch into a lower gear, it will give you more traction.
- Patches of black ice are rarely larger than 20 feet, so you will be able to use your brakes and steering wheel again soon. Until then, you should remain calm.
- If you do drive off the road, you should try to steer into things that will damage your car less. For example, a fluffy snowbank or field is generally safer than trees or concrete medians.
- To avoid skidding on black ice, you should drive slowly. When you speed, you lose traction and control.
- During the winter, you should turn on your headlights. The lights will help you see the sheen of black ice.
- You should never tailgate in snowy or icy conditions.
- Your windshield should be clean and easy to see through. Before you drive, you should remove any ice, dirt and snow. You should also keep an ice scraper in your car so that you can easily remove the ice before you drive.
Tips for Making Long Trips in the Wintertime
Before you make a long road trip this winter, you should get your car checked out by a mechanic. You should also check the weather before you go. If there is a lot of bad weather along your route, you should consider delaying your trip until the weather improves. In addition, you can use the following tips to stay safe on your road trip.
- Tell your loved ones your route before you leave. You should also tell them your estimated arrival time so that they will know if something has gone wrong.
- If you are stuck in the snow, you should stay inside your vehicle. Your vehicle will make it easier for rescuers to find you, and it serves as a short-term shelter. In addition, it is easy to lose sight of your car because of the snow. If you leave your vehicle, you may get lost and be unable to find it again.
- Snow shoveling can increase your physical exertion, which can cause a heart attack, stroke or injury. Because of this, you should take breaks and listen to your body if you are digging your vehicle out of the snow.
- Before you drive, you should make sure your exhaust pipe is free from ice, mud and snow. If the exhaust pipe becomes clogged, it can cause carbon monoxide gas to fill your car. In contained spaces, this gas can quickly become lethal.
- If you are stuck in the snow, you should try to conserve fuel. You should only run the heater long enough to remove some of the chill.
- To increase the chances that you are found, you should tie a brightly colored cloth onto the antenna. By turning on your dome light, you can also make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- If you have to wait for help in the cold, you should use whatever you can to stay warm. Blankets, newspapers, floor mats, clothing and paper maps can provide insulation for your body.
What Should You Do If You Get Into an Accident?
In Texas, car accident deaths lead to $43 million in medical bills per year. Victims lose $5.66 billion in wages because of these crashes. Across the country, car accidents cause $871 billion in medical costs and other damages each year. While it may not always be possible to prevent a car accident, there are ways you can mitigate the long-term costs.
After an accident, you should use the following steps to protect yourself and your family.
- Look at the damage: Immediately after the accident, you should see if anyone needs medical treatment. Unless a car is blocking traffic or in a dangerous position, you should wait for the police to show up before you move anything.
- Call the police: Even if you have only experienced a fender bender, you should still call the police. Once the police arrive, they can create a legal report of the accident.
- Avoid talking to the other party: Anything you say can potentially be used in court. You should never admit fault for the accident. Ideally, you should only talk to your insurance company, the police and medical professionals.
- Record the facts: After an accident, it is easy to forget the details of everyone involved. You should record the names, phone numbers and addresses of witnesses and anyone involved in the accident. In addition, you should get the car type, license plate number, insurance company and vehicle identification number of the other party’s vehicle.
- Get medical help: It is normal to experience shock after an accident. You may not realize the extent of your injuries until much later. Because of this, it is important to get immediate medical treatment. In addition to helping you heal, your medical treatment is a record of your injuries and costs.
With the best tips for winter driving safety, you will hopefully be able to avoid an accident. If this is not possible, you can get help through a car accident lawyer. Car crashes can lead to debilitating injuries and high medical costs, so it is important to get help before you take your case to court. With the right support, you can get started on your recovery process.