Driving can be a dangerous experience during the winter months when snow limits visibility and ice makes it harder to get traction on the pavement. Here are some numbers that put the hazards of wintertime driving into perspective:
17% of all car accidents happen in snowy conditions
More than 1,800 people die each year while driving in winter conditions
Cold weather contributes to 156,164 auto crashes annually
Cars take 10X longer to stop on pavement covered in snow or ice
These figures are alarming, particularly when you consider that 70% of America’s roads exist in places where the temperature regularly drops below freezing during the winter. Most drivers will have to drive on dangerous roads at some point each winter. Even drivers in Southern states where it rarely freezes may encounter snow and ice because of a freak storm or because they take a road trip north.
No one should ever expect to drive in perfect conditions all the time. Likewise, everyone should know how to drive safely when there’s snow in the air, ice on the road, or fog on the horizon. Keep yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle safe by following these winter car and truck driving tips compiled by the transport experts at Direct Express Auto Transport:
Be Good To Your Tires
Your tires can make winter driving a lot easier or a lot harder. If possible, use tires specifically made for driving in snow and ice. They offer extra grip to keep you from sliding around the road. At the start of the winter season, inspect your tires for signs of wear and tear (or have a professional do it for you). This is a great time to replace old tires – even if you don’t replace them with special winter tires – and start the winter with something new. At the very least, watch your tire pressure – under-inflated tires don’t offer as much traction or perform as well in slippery conditions.
Avoid Cruise Control
Cruise control can be a great feature, especially on a long drive, but it only makes driving more dangerous in the winter. You might encounter ice on the road or a sudden snow shower without any advanced warning. Or there could be an accident caused by winter weather or a traffic slow down that appears out of nowhere. Winter travel requires dynamic driving in a lot of cases. You need to slow down quickly and vary your speed all the time. For that reason, it’s safer to leave cruise control off and keep your foot on the gas or brakes.
Take the Essentials
Even with preparation and defensive driving, there’s no way to guarantee safe passage on winter roads. As the stats above demonstrated, accidents are more common in winter, and you could also end up stranded because of bad traffic or impassable roads. That’s why it’s important to take some precautions before you leave the house for any extended winter drive. Make sure your car has at least half of a tank of gas so that fuel issues don’t leave you stranded in the cold. But don’t assume you won’t get stranded – pack a winter travel kit with essentials like blankets, food, water, flashlights, glass scrapers, windshield wiper fluid, warm clothes, and first aid supplies. You can keep a frustrating situation from getting worse (and dangerous) by keeping this kit in your car throughout the winter months.
We mentioned earlier that driving on ice or snow requires dynamic control of your speed. In general, though, you always want to drive slower in wintery conditions, regardless of what the speed limit says. Go slower on the highways and on residential streets. Follow this rule even if the roads appear to be clear and dry, and especially if they have visible snow or ice on them. Preventing your car from slipping and sliding is always better than trying to correct these problems once they start.
Maintain More Distance
One reason you want to go slow is because it takes your car significantly longer to stop when the roads are slick. Even if you press hard on the brakes, your car can’t get enough traction to stop as fast as normal. Travel five to six seconds behind the car in front of you, especially in bad weather. That should give you enough time to stop if you suddenly see brake lights ahead of you. Extra stopping distance can also help you avoid hitting another car if your own starts to slip on the pavement. Try to give a wide berth to every other car on the road.
Too much gas too quickly can cause your tires to slip out on frozen roads. When the stoplight changes to green, apply the gas in a slow, steady manner, and don’t expect to come up to full speed as quickly as you normally would. The same goes if you have to reduce your speed on the highway – don’t hurry to speed up again because it could accidentally cause your tires to lose traction.
Correct Your Slide
If and when your tires start to slide in a way you didn’t expect, don’t panic. Take your foot off the accelerator, and resist the urge to slam on the brakes. Instead, hover your foot over the brake pedal while turning the steering wheel into the direction of the slide. Turning into the slide helps your tires regain traction, at which point you can start to gently apply brake pressure. Your driver’s instincts will want you to keep the car pointing in the direction of travel, but it actually puts you and other drivers at risk if you turn against the slide because you could lose control of the car completely. Remember, it’s better to be in a minor traffic accident than a major collision. Turning into the slide could mean the difference.
Don’t Overestimate Your Vehicle
Maybe you drive a pickup or SUV with four-wheel drive, a crossover with all-wheel drive, or a make/model that promises to offer superior traction control. These are all great features to have, and they can definitely come in handy when driving in snow or navigating around patches of ice. But they don’t make your vehicle immune to the hazards of driving in the winter. Anyone who’s driven through a winter storm before has probably seen large trucks on the side of the road. These and other vehicles that offer extra traction may be more capable in the snow or ice, but they’re not any better at coming to a stop quickly. The point is, no matter what you drive, drive carefully. How you drive in the winter weather matters a lot more than what you drive.
An Alternative to Winter Driving
Just because you know how to drive in the snow doesn’t mean you want to. Even in the best of conditions, when the weather forecast and the roadways are both clear, driving in winter can sound less than appealing. You have to deal with a cold car cabin, dry air, salt everywhere, and extra stress on your car. There’s a reason most people take road trips in the spring or summer.
If you need to get your vehicle from one place to another – because you’re moving, going on extended vacation, headed off to college, or getting a vehicle to a friend, family member, or buyer – you don’t have to drive it there yourself. Auto shipping is also an option. And in the winter, it’s often the better option.
When you ship a car, you arrange for a vehicle hauler to pick it up somewhere close to your location and load it onto the back of a vehicle trailer (or into an enclosed trailer for maximum safety). The professional driver then transports your vehicle to your destination – whether that’s across the state or across the country – and drops it off wherever you want it. You save time, your vehicle saves miles, and best of all, you don’t have to worry about driving on ice or snow.
If vehicle shipping sounds better than a winter weather road trip, Direct Express Auto Transport makes it easy to arrange a pickup. Use our car shipping quote calculator to connect with the nation’s top vehicle haulers, including options tailored to your budget and schedule. It takes less than a minute to get multiple quotes, it costs you nothing, and you’re not obligated to book anything. Auto shipping couldn’t be easier!
Learn more about how auto shipping works in this video, and learn more about the shipping services we offer as well. If you have questions about anything, contact us.
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