According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 500,000 vehicle crashes happen during icy weather conditions with over 2,000 deaths. Driving in the ice, sleet, and snow can certainly be precarious — especially at night. While it is advisable to stay off the road during wintery weather conditions, there are times when it cannot be avoided. However, if you find yourself on the road when it begins to sleet or snow there are steps you can take to mitigate an accident.
It is always a good idea to be prepared before you drive in freezing weather. Here are a few suggestions to follow:
- Drive slowly. If you find yourself out on the road in icy conditions, the slower you go the less likely you are to have an accident. In Washington state, the biggest risk factor for an accident in the snow is drivers who are traveling too fast for the conditions.
- Accelerate and deaccelerate slowly. This will avoid skidding. The faster you try to go, the more likelihood you can lose control of your car.
- Increase your following distance. You need to give the car in front of you enough leeway for sudden stops.
- Know your brakes. Understand how they work. If you have been driving your car for a while, you know its habits.
- Try to avoid hills. Go around if you can. Many people cannot power up hills unless they have all-wheel drive.
- Don’t stop on a hill. If you get up enough power to get up hill keep on going. If you stop, you may get stuck there.
Other Tips for Staying Safe on Winter Roads
Always be prepared for the unknown. Make sure you have blankets or a jacket in the car in case you get stuck.
Stay connected with your cell phone. Be sure to have a fully charged phone as well as a charger in case you get stuck on the highway and cannot move.
Be as visible as you can. If you wind up in a remote area, have brightly colored clothes or something bright to put around the car’s antenna to attract attention.
Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear. Ice and snow can easily freeze your exhaust while you have the car running. This can cause a backup of deadly carbon monoxide.
Do not venture away from your vehicle unless absolutely necessary. Your vehicle may be the only protection you have from the elements. Also, if the precipitation is heavy, you could get lost.
You should also conserve as much fuel as you can. Only run the heater long enough to knock off the chill.
The best advice for driving in freezing weather: Don’t drive. If you have too, be sure to take the proper driving precautions so you can remain safe.