When the temperature declines it seems people forget how to drive ... leading to more winter-related accidents. The Federal Highway Administration reported snow and sleet weather conditions make up for approximately 225,00 crashes and 870 deaths annually; icy pavements make up for approximately 190,100 crashes and 680 deaths annually. To help prepare you for driving in winter conditions, here's what you need to know:
Roads Get Slippery
According to the Federal Highway Administration, 24 percent of vehicle crashes each year are weather-related including rain, sleet, snow and fog. Be careful while driving in the snow or rain; the roads will become very slick because of oil spills and excess gunk on the roads brought up by the wet weather.
Beware of "black ice." This term refers to water frozen onto dark roadways, freezing black like the street. Motorists don't see this and while they pass over this area their car can slide; have good tires with great traction, engage your four-wheel drive, drive cautiously and keep your windshield clean. Bollards (the short vertical posts in white or yellow generally made out of cement) are setup to stop cars from sliding or driving into things such as pumps at gas stations, but are not a good protection from black ice.
Snow Chains/Winter Tires
The use of snow chains is recommended by Roads and Maritime Services when driving in very poor winter conditions. Snow chains help drivers reduce accidents in their design; chain devises are fitted to the tires to provide maximum traction when driving through snow and ice and helps prevent sliding. In some states it is illegal to drive with snow chains. In Michigan, tire chains are allowed if it is, "required for safety because of snow, ice or other conditions tending to cause a vehicle to skid," but the chain must not come in contact with the surface of the roadway.
"Summer" tires don't have enough tread and have little to no grip in snow; have both summer and winter sets of tires if you live in an area with extreme seasons. To have adequate snow traction, your tires need to have at least 6/32-inch deep tread, according to The Tire Rack.
Daytime Running Lights
Ambient lighting can be poor during the wintertime. To prevent accidents or running into snow poles, you should drive with your headlights on low beam, even during daytime to improve your visibility to other road users, according to Roads & Maritime Services. When the weather turns especially bad, turn on your vehicle's fog or head lights.
Get a Vehicle Check-Up
Have a mechanic to thoroughly check your vehicle before the winter season approaches. They could find existing problems that might get worse in the winter months. Check the tires, battery, brakes, cooling system, engine and windshield.
Don't skimp on new windshield wiper blades during winter; with the constant snow, rain and hail it will be a huge hazard if you don't have working wiper blades, making it close to impossible to drive. Fill your windshield washer system with anti-icing fluid. If you're parking outside or will be away from your car for a few hours, protect your windshield wipers by lifting them off your windshield or placing them in a plastic bag so they won't stick to the glass.
What Do You Do If Your Car Skids
According to The Weather Channel, here's what you need to know in case your front or rear wheels skid:
If Your Rear Wheels Skid
- Take your foot off the accelerator.
- Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.
- If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
- If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.
If Your Front Wheels Skid
- Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.
- As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.