DRIVING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND
January 31st, 2017 | Michelle M. Quinn
Winter can be a time of immense beauty. A fresh layer of snow clinging to trees can create a splendid landscape. But winter’s paintbrush can also be deadly.
“Every year, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy roads. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to make winter travel safer,” says Attorney Michelle M. Quinn, HKQ Law. “For starters, make sure your car is mechanically sound. Have your mechanic check your lights, brakes, windshield wipers, battery, heater, and tires. Consider installing winter tires. In any event, make sure your tires are properly inflated and not excessively worn. During the winter, always make sure your gas tank is at least half-full.”
Before you start driving, clear all snow or ice off your vehicle, including the roof. Snow or ice can gradually slip down from the top of your car, impairing your view.
When driving in the snow:
- Drive slowly. (Accelerating, stopping, turning take longer on slippery roads.)
- Increase your following distances.
- Don’t power up hills. (Applying extra gas will just get your wheels spinning. Before you reach the hill, try to get a little inertia going and let that carry you to the top.)
- Don’t stop going up a hill, unless absolutely necessary.
- Proceed down a hill as slowly as possible.
If you’re making a long-distance winter trip:
- Check the weather forecast. (Delay your trip if bad weather is expected. If you must travel, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.)
- Fill your gas tank before your leave.
- Remember your cell phone and a car charger.
- Take blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication, high-energy snack foods, and emergency items such as a tow rope, jumper cables, sand or cat litter (traction aid), a flashlight, matches and candles, first aid kit, and a portable radio. Keep this kit in your trunk for the winter season.
- Make frequent rest stops to improve your alertness.
- Share the driving if possible.
If you become snow-bound:
- Stay with your vehicle. (It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.)
- Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. (It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.)
- Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress.
- At night, keep the dome light on if possible (It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.)
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. (Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud so fumes won't back up in the car.)
- Keep one window slightly open to let in fresh air.
The best tip for dealing with snow is to avoid it. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t.