Learn what to do when driving in poor weather conditions
Snow Safety Driving Tips
More than 800 deaths occur every year in the US due to driving in snowy and icy conditions. Limited visibility and slippery surfaces are the main causes of accidents which, apart from the risk to life, can cause a huge financial burden. Beyond medical costs, you may have to pay for the repair of your vehicle. If this involves claiming on your insurance, then your premiums will go up. Therefore, to avoid injury to your person or bank account, you need to learn how to drive safely in the snow. In order to reduce the chance of an insurance claim, drivers need to stay focused and take extra precautions during the winter.
Find Alternative Transport
If it any doubt, don’t drive. Check if public transport is running and take this wherever possible. If you are worried about being late, then it is a good idea to become familiar with the local public transport timetables, so that you don’t waste time looking this up when the time comes.
The bus is about 60 times safer than commuting by car and railways are 20 times safer. On snow days, taking public transit means that there is no chance of you damaging your car and a reduced risk of injuring yourself.
It may also be a good idea to carpool. The less congested the roads, the better, so see if any friends are willing to share their car with you. If someone has a well suited SUV or pickup, then this could be a safer solution than your own vehicle.
Give Yourself Time
If driving is your only option, then you need to find ways to keep safe. Driving in snow is dangerous, so allow yourself extra time to prevent mistakes. You can try leaving for your destination earlier, before the snow gets too heavy. However, it may already be too late.
If you are driving down icy roads, then take your time. Be sure to drive well below the speed limit. Remember, that regardless of your vehicle’s brake quality, doubling your speed will double your stopping distance. By the same logic, if you drive at half your usual speed, you will halve your stopping distance. You will of course take twice as long to get to your destination, but will have greatly reduced the possibility of a crash.
If you are afraid of being late, then try and leave earlier. Factor slow driving into your driving time by getting ready and leaving the house more quickly than you normally would. Don’t leave driving to the last minute. If you do, then just accept that you are likely to be late. In dangerous weather, your safety is paramount.
Give Others Space
As well as taking your time, be aware of others around you. Even with anti lock braking, stopping distances are greatly increased on snowy and icy roads. You should therefore leave plenty of room between yourself and the car in front. Leave more than you think you need to be on the safe side.
Your braking and acceleration should be smooth and gentle. Allow other cars to drive off before you accelerate and, if you see their brake lights, then you should brake too. Try and move in time with the traffic around you.
Increase Your Vehicle’s Visibility
It is not just the slippery road surfaces that cause accidents. If you are driving during snowfall, then it is likely that visibility is reduced. This means that you will less easily be able to spot other vehicles and they will be unable to see you from great distances.
In order to overcome the problems of visibility, you need to do two things. Firstly, you need to make your car easier to see. Turning on headlights is a good start because even during the day this increases the distance at which you can be spotted. However, ensure that your headlights are properly cleaned before setting off. You can use sandpaper soaked in water to get a deeper clean and ensure that lights can shine through brightly enough to be seen.
It is also a good idea to put extra reflective stickers on the side of your car. If you are driving across a crossroads, cars coming from side on will not be able to see your headlights. Reflective stripes can help them to spot you earlier and stop in time. You should assume that other cars are not driving as carefully as you and do whatever you can to keep yourself visible.
Improve Your Ability to See Other Vehicles
The second aspect of visibility is ensuring that you can see other vehicles. Again, you should not assume that other drivers have done what they can to increase their car’s visibility. They may have forgotten to turn on or clean their headlights. They may also be driving faster than you expect.
In order to better see other vehicles, always drive slowly, especially around corners. When you reach a junction, take more time to check thoroughly that there is no oncoming traffic. If there is, they may be unable to brake in time. Consider cyclists and motorcycles too, by checking more carefully for single headlights.
You should also have properly cleaned your windshield before leaving your driveway. Make sure the entire windscreen and side windows are clear of snow, so that you can see in all directions. Wipe down your mirrors so that you can see behind you as well. If the windows fog up, pull over and turn on the demisters until it is safe to drive again.
Driving in the snow should only be attempted if absolutely necessary. Walking, public transport and ride sharing are always safer options. However, for when you do choose to drive, allow plenty of time and space to decrease the risk of an accident, while limiting damage if one does occur. Driving extra slowly, taking extra care and increasing visibility is key to reducing the chance of an insurance claim.