Winter driving poses higher risks for crashes and injuries to the traveling public as the number of crashes typically rises on snowy days. Some factors that contribute to the rise in the number of crashes is that many drivers fail to adjust to hazardous driving conditions. Snowy, overcast skies can reduce the contrast you can see between your car, the vehicles around you and the passing landscape, so that you feel that you are going slower than your actual speed. Consequently, you may unwisely increase your speed to compensate. One illustration of this phenomenon is provided by a researcher at the University of Minnesota who found that snowplows are more frequently struck from the rear in snowy conditions despite their bright orange color, reflectors and flashing lights. To help avoid accidents and injuries, follow these simple tips:
CLEAR SNOW AWAY FROM YOUR TAILPIPE IF YOU ARE STUCK IN A SNOWBANK. Be sure that exhaust from your tailpipe is not blocked by snow, as fumes may enter your car and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
IF YOUR VEHICLE BEGINS TO SKID ON ICE OR SNOW, ALWAYS STEER IN THE DIRECTION OF WHERE YOU WOULD LIKE THE FRONT OF YOUR VEHICLE TO GO. Using cruise control can be dangerous when driving in wintery conditions since your wheels will continue to spin when your tires lose traction.
WET SURFACES CAN DOUBLE YOUR STOPPING DISTANCE, WHILE ICE AND SNOW CAN INCREASE STOPPING DISTANCES UP TO TEN TIMES OVER DRY CONDITIONS. To compensate for these hazardous driving conditions, keep an eye on the speedometer and focus on traffic and conditions as far ahead as possible.
WINTERIZE YOUR VEHICLE. Check the tread on your tires by placing a quarter into the tread. If you can see George Washington’s head, then you need to replace your tires as the tread has worn below the recommended 4/32 of an inch limit. Keep your tires properly inflated as tires lose about one pound of pressure for every 10 degree drop in temperature. An underinflated tire leaves less rubber in contact with the roadway surface. Cold weather is tough on batteries. Have your battery, starter and alternator checked to be sure that they are in good working condition. Replace worn windshield wipers, and use a scraper to remove ice and snow instead of clearing your windows with your wipers.
BE PREPARED IF YOU GET STUCK IN THE SNOW. Carry kitty litter to help you get out of snowbanks. Pack boots, gloves, a snow scraper, a collapsible shovel, a blanket and a flashlight with fresh batteries.
FIND THE BEST “PERSON-TO-VEHICLE” FIT. Check your line of sight to be certain that you can see at least three inches over the top of the steering wheel. Adjust your seated position upward if you are lower. Be sure you are at least 10 inches away from your steering wheel to insure proper deployment of the airbag in the event of a collision. To efficiently operate the brake and gas pedals, you should be able to operate them with the ball of your foot, without excessively stretching of your leg or foot.
Have a Safe and Enjoyable Winter Driving Season!