Stay Safe this Winter Season
In Springfield it seems winter weather has arrived. As a personal injury attorney I spend time investigating car crashes, and as we transition to winter weather traditionally this means more accidents.
Slick road conditions and freezing temperatures affect the way your vehicle handles. During winter weather there are several precautions that can be taken to improve your safety. Below is a safety checklist for your vehicle including a few special tips for those of you who drive a rear wheel vehicle.
SAFETY TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING
Tire Placement – Ensure that your tires with the most tread are on the rear wheels. We occasionally get pushback on this topic from “car guys”, but the fact of the matter is that if you lose traction, you are less likely to enter an uncontrollable spin if your best tires are on the rear.
Tire Inflation – As the ambient air temperature drops, so does the air pressure in your tires. Check your tire pressure, it is likely that you’ll need to add air.
Air Conditioning – Ensure that your A/C unit is charged, when most cars are set to defrost mode, the A/C unit will work to dry the air in the cabin and reduce fogging of the windows.
Clean the Snow Off Your Car – It’s important to clean not only your windows, but also your headlights, hood, and roof. This practice will not only improve your visibility, but will also help to prevent snow and ice from your car blowing onto other motorists.
Turn On Your Headlights – Not only to improve your visibility, also to make it easier for other drivers to see you.
Be a Smooth Operator – Avoid sudden applications of the throttle, brakes, or steering. Sudden applications of these primary vehicle controls can lead to a loss of traction and control.
Don’t Tailgate – Tension is already high amongst motorists in foul weather, in lower traction conditions it will take longer to make evasive maneuvers.
Check Your Gauges – Snow and ice may build up on the front of your car, blocking air flow to your cooling system, which has the potential to cause your engine to overheat.
Ride in the Tracks of the Vehicles Ahead of You – Unless those tracks have turned to ice, riding in the tracks is likely to provide better traction. Some of the snow and slush in the tracks has been dispersed, allowing your tires to make contact with the road surface. If the tracks have formed compacted ice, you may find better grip on fresh snow.
Accelerating From a Stop – If you are spinning your wheels from a standstill, try starting in a higher gear (2nd instead of first) and easing off the accelerator pedal. Traction is better when the tires are not slipping. For rear wheel drive vehicles it is helpful to add extra weight over the rear wheels using sand bags for example. If no additional weight is available, top off the tank. A full tank of fuel can usually add 100 lbs over the rear wheels.
Uphill – When going uphill, increase your speed slightly before you reach the hill so that you have the momentum to make it up the hill.
Downhill – When going downhill, slow down as much as possible before the hill and select a lower gear if possible, then slowly coast down the hill applying as little brake as necessary to keep your vehicle at a safe speed.
Icy Bridges – Icy bridges are the most hazardous because they often catch divers off guard due to their ability to freeze before the road surface. Heed the “Bridge Freezes Before Road” signs when temperatures are near freezing and slow down before the bridge or overpass. Don’t panic and suddenly apply your brakes on the bridge or overpass as this may lead to a loss of control.
Reduce Your Speed – By reducing your speed you can increase the amount of time available for evasive maneuvers.
Getting Unstuck – If you do get stuck in the snow, it may be helpful to turn-off your traction control system. In some scenarios, the additional wheel spin will help to dig through the snow, allowing your tires to make contact with the asphalt and gain traction.