• Feb 22, 2013
Avoid accidents this winter by following a few simple s... Avoid accidents this winter by following a few simple safety tips (Danita Delimont, Alamy).
It was the first big snowfall of the season and I was out driving on the freeway when it happened. I had been traveling carefully, unsure that my little sedan would be able to keep traction as the snow kept piling up, when a large SUV came flying out of nowhere, attempting to pass me as if the roads were dry. Just as the SUV had gotten ahead of me, the driver lost control. The vehicle spun wildly for a few seconds and then crashed horrifically into the median with a sickening crunch.

Somehow, the driver was unhurt. Many others, however, are not so lucky. Each and every winter, people are injured or killed because they are unprepared or overconfident on snowy, icy roads.

With a winter storm blanketing the Midwest today, drivers could use some reminders on how to drive properly in the snow.

The following rules for driving safely in winter weather are not particularly difficult to follow. Even if you are a veteran driver from a snow belt state, keeping these safety tips fresh in your mind can keep you on the road and in control.

1. Make sure you and your car are properly equipped before you leave.

Do a quick check of your vehicle before you hit the road. Make sure that your car has ample antifreeze, the windshield is clean and you have plenty of windshield washer fluid, the headlights are clean and in working order and the tires have tread and are properly inflated. Also, make sure to have your battery tested, to avoid being stranded in the cold with a car that won't start.

In addition to your vehicle's mechanical equipment, it's important to keep some extra items in the trunk or glove box in case of emergency. Equip your car with a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, warm clothes, and a blanket. Remember to have sunglasses in the car as well. It always amazes me how many people I see driving in the winter without them. The glare of the sun off of snow and ice can be more intense in the winter than it is in the summer.

One last thing to remember, perhaps the most important of all: Your cell phone.

2. Slow down and drive smoothly.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but even if you're driving an SUV or a four-wheel-drive truck, you cannot safely do 80 mph during a snowstorm. Four-wheel-drive may help your vehicle get going in the slushy stuff, but it's of no use when you're trying to steer or safely stop on a slippery road surface.

It is also important to avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and turns. Doing so can cause your vehicle to lose traction and can launch you into an uncontrollable skid, leading to a collision.

Driving too quickly is the main cause of accidents in winter conditions. Just be patient and accept the fact that it is going to take longer to arrive at your destination.

3. Do not tailgate.

It is important to remember that it takes a much longer distance to stop your vehicle in the snow or ice due to the greatly reduced traction, even with just a light covering on the road. You may think that the driver in front of you doing 35 mph on the freeway is going too slow and needs a reminder in the form of you riding their bumper, but doing so is dangerous. Be patient and stay back until it's safe to pass.

Tailgating often leads to accidents, especially if you are driving in stop-and-go traffic. If the car in front of you stops abruptly and you are following too closely, you can reflexively slam on the brakes and end up sliding into it. The resulting accident may be no more than a fender-bender, but having to deal with it on a busy road in the snow is certainly something that you want to avoid, especially if other cars are sliding around as well. Many serious accident injuries come from a second impact from another car after a seemingly trivial collision.

4. Do not use cruise control.

For some, driving with cruise control has become almost second nature. Sure, it prevents you from getting leg fatigue, keeps you from unwittingly speeding and is great on long trips, but driving with it on in winter conditions can be unsafe. Thus, if cruise control has become a staple of your driving habits, make a conscious effort to ensure that you are not using it in winter weather.

Using cruise control in the snow, ice or even rain is dangerous because if your car hydroplanes or skids, it will accelerate and rapidly spin the wheels since it will be trying to maintain a constant speed. If this happens, it will be more likely that you lose control of your vehicle.

5. Pull over or stay home.

If at any point during your trip -- or before you even leave -- you feel that the weather is too bad to continue driving, simply stay put. If you're out on the road, find a safe spot to pull over and wait until the weather passes or calms to the point where you feel comfortable driving again. If you haven't left yet, stay home and off the roads.

Remember, there is no shame in making the logical decision to stay in when the conditions are bad. You may be late arriving to your destination, but arriving late in one piece is much better than the alternative. Your boss or significant other will understand.



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  • 334 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      People driving SUVs often forget that they can't negotiate ice any better than anyone else. We all have 4 tiny strips of rubber on the road. All 4WD gets you is better traction for acceleration and getting out of muck. At 55mph we're all the same. In fact SUVs have a disadvantage because they are heavier and it's harder to change direction AND harder to slow down.
      • 4 Years Ago
      rejects in Indiana tailgate all the time, and at stop lights will climb up your butt. Absolutley no common sense at all.
      oreo cookies
      • 3 Years Ago
      Leave your 2005+ corvette at home for the winter
      Dave
      • 3 Years Ago
      I drive truck for a living. Your article is in most part common sense points that should have been taught to people in a driving class that cares rather than just interested in the income they are getting. Articles of winter driving always leave out any mention of the trucks. In the demand for freight to be moved has brought about an explosion of trucks in numbers on the roads of our nation. However there is no emphathise on mingling with these big rigs, most cars or people see them as an obstacle to get around because they are slow, so it appears. Has anybody ever given the general public an idea of what it takes to stop one of these things in inclemet weather, or should you have just done that around that truck? Sure, I've seen my share of insane acts out there and around me.For instance, not to mention where or when, but this happened to me and probably countless other drivers. It was a winter situation, I started out from my terminal, the roads where wet. As I continued on my trip, they went from wet to frozen. The slow lane was glare ice, so the best logical lane was the passing lane for traction. I was in no big hurry to get to my destination due to the conditions. I kept watch on traffic behind me and the line seemed to be getting longer and longer...nobody trying to pass on the right as it was the slow lane and quite glarey from ice build up. I decided to slow down a bit, put my turn signal on to move to the right to let people go by. I looked in the mirror again and here was a car trying to pass that had been following for miles. The only reasoning I can come up with is, they must have thought there was trouble in front of me when there was none. By the time this car had come along side my tractor he lost control and was spinning, he shot out in front of me within 15 feet heading to the medium. All I could see from the occupant was their lips saying please don't hit me, luckily I didn't but I wasn't about to hit my brakes and put my truck into a jackknife in a panick stop. I don't know if any of the other vehicle including a Trooper I saw in my mirror ever stopped to check on them. People when they are around trucks should use a bit better judgement on what they are doing especially in the winter, nobody wants to be in an accident, so please think
      • 3 Years Ago
      great tips
      • 3 Years Ago
      Slow the F*** down people!!! Most cars in the ditch/accidents are because some people are driving too fast for road conditions!! Stop putting us all in jeopardy, & slow the hell down!!!
      frank1946
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not a Blanket...................a Sleeping Bag !
      • 3 Years Ago
      The police want you to call 9-1-1 for all calls; the dispatcher will determine how serious the emergency is. How do you know someone in those cars doesn't need an ambulance??? When 911 was new we were told not to use it for everything; now the instructions are to call it first.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is for pschnatz33. Unless they know what kind of car you drive, no one on this forum can tell you specifically what "Drive 2" is for. In some cars, it will force the car to start in the lowest gear. In some it will limit the upshifts to no higher than second or third gear. In others Drive 2 might simply keep the torque converter from locking up. There is a VERY easy way to answer your question though: (and please take this advice!) READ THE OWNERS MANUAL THAT CAME WITH YOUR CAR!!!!! If you don't have one, go down to the local dealer and buy one and ...ok here is the hard part because it isn't in video or because it might take 45 minutes...READ IT!!!!! I sometimes think that I am the only person in the world who has ever read the operators manual in a car. The fact is, I have read the manual for EVERYcar I have ever owned.. If I did not have time at the dealership I would read it after I got home and before I took the car out again. The reason that I am going on about this is that most owners manuals will have some information about driving in bad weather conditions that is specific to the car. As far as the guys who say "get out of my way, etc.....In 34 years I have driven well over 1 million ACCIDENT FREE miles. I have driven in every conceivable kind of weather condition. If I am plodding along at 30 miles per hour, I am going as fast as conditions allow and I don't give a damn if you are behind me. My experience speaks for itself and the life I save might be yours. When you arrogant SUV driving idiots can match my experience, then I'll listen to you. By the way, the car I drive now is a 1983 Mercedes with 341,000 miles on it. I have a set of tire chains but have only had to use them twice. Ive never had any problem getting anywhere when I need to. Remember, drive safe and read that owners manual.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Here's a message to people who tailgate and try to PUSH us into another lane! STOP! That is so dangerous! If I am doing the speed limit then slow down and know your role! Sometimes I will move over because its not worth the bother. However, it has become a game to some immature drivers to bully the cars in front of them. Drive safe and we all benefit!
      vlady1000
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just put on the wheels with snow tires today (a liitle late this year). My wifes car actually has a snowflake button on the tranny. When depressed it, starts out in 3rd gear to help reduce wheel spin. First time I have ever seen that feature. Do drive so slow that you or others behind you get stuck on a small hill. It happened the other day, the driver about 4 cars ahead was going 5mph on the ice and when going over an overpass the guy behind me could not make it up the small incline. 20-25 mph was safe to do. If you are that scared, then stay home as you are a hazard to others. Icould not take the 3-5 mph so I just passed all 4 cars with no problems.
      • 4 Years Ago
      driving in the snow is one of my top 10 favorite things to do, whenever it snow i make an excuse to go somewhere, o ***********, ***********, ***********. and btw its ok to use cruise control in the snow, even my 10 year old truck will automatically reduce the power instantly to get u back on track and will eventually self cancel it
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