Tips for Staying Safe in Winter Driving Conditions
For many places around the United States, late fall through early spring can bring severe storms with cold, wet weather. Driving can be especially dangerous with low visibility and slippery roads.
- The federal Road Weather Management Program notes nearly 900 people are killed and almost 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet every year.
- The same source states light rain or snow can reduce average speeds by three to 13% on freeways. Heavy snow can reduce average speeds by up to 40%.
- The National Safety Council recommends increasing following distance between cars to 8-10 seconds when roads are wet, as it can be harder to stop abruptly.
- Slow Down: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “failure to keep in proper lane or running off the road” and “driving too fast for conditions” are two of the most common poor driver behaviors. Slick roads, wind and low visibility can make these behaviors even more dangerous. Give yourself ample space between you and the next car. It can take three seconds to come to a full stop on dry pavement; that time goes up to 10 seconds when it’s wet.
- Avoid Getting Distracted Behind the Wheel: “Snow squalls,” or short and sudden bursts of extremely heavy snow, can reduce visibility from dozens of feet to right in front of your windshield in seconds. They’re particularly notorious for causing severe car crashes. Even though it might not be a traditional squall, conditions can change at a moment’s notice. Give the road your full attention by eliminating potential distractions. Texts can wait.
- Have a Designated Driver: Impaired drivers should never get behind the wheel. In 2018, there were 10,511 deaths from drunk-driving crashes. This goes for alcohol and other drugs: they can slow reaction time, cause drowsiness and impair judgement – and you’re going to want to be extra alert when the weather is bad.
- Take the Time to Reflect: As we enter the new year and set our resolutions, take some time to reflect on your own driving behavior: what ways can you improve? Or, perhaps, what practices do you want to instill in younger drivers to pass on a safety-first mindset?