It’s a startling fact: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17% of all motor vehicle accidents happen in winter conditions, causing more than approximately 150,000 accidents each year. Icy, slippery roads in Connecticut present special challenges to drivers and pose unfavorable conditions. In addition to the typical safe driving tips you take every time you drive a motor vehicle, there are additional safety measures you should take when driving on ice and snow.
Winter Driving Tip #1: Slow Down
When driving through ice and snow, it’s important to reduce your speed and increase the space between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. The Connecticut Department of Transportation states that you should maintain at least three times the normal following distance during icy or snowy weather conditions. In the event that you do lose control of your vehicle, this space gives you time to react and slow down before hitting another vehicle.
In addition, icy, slushy roads can create less traction for your tires. To account for this, remember to accelerate slowly and brake slowly. It’s also important to know that it takes more time to slow down on icy roads, so give yourself extra time.
Winter Driving Tip #2: Ensure Exhaust Pipe is Not Blocked with Snow
Drivers should be exceptionally careful when starting their cars during snowy conditions. If their vehicle’s exhaust pipe is blocked by snow or ice, poisonous fumes cannot escape. These fumes can gather and seep into the cab of your vehicle, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, so it can go easily undetected. To ensure this does not happen, make sure the exhaust pipe is completely clear before starting your car.
Winter Driving Tip #3: As Always, Be Diligent About Vehicle Maintenance
We’ve all been there – you’re racing out the door and as soon as you get inside your car, you realize your tires are under-inflated. It’s quite common for this to happen in the cold, dry winter months when the temperature drops. As air contracts in the cold, it can cause your tires to slowly deflate. This is why it’s important to check your tire pressure at least every month or right before going on a long drive. When checking the tire pressure, be sure to do so in the morning when the tires are still cold as driving can warm up the tires and increase the tire pressure, causing inaccurate pressure reading.
Winter driving can put stress on your vehicle. As always, be careful with the maintenance of your motor vehicle by ensuring all fluids, tire pressures and batteries are where they should be.
Winter Driving Tip #4: Don’t Accelerate Uphill
Accelerating too quickly in the snow and ice may cause your wheels to spin, making you lose control of your vehicle. Slowly accelerate when traveling uphill to avoid this. When reaching the top and traveling downhill, apply little gas and let your vehicle’s inertia do most of the work. Reduce your speed as you travel downhill slowly.
Winter Driving Tip #5: Make Sure Heating and Cooling Systems Work
Maintaining safe visibility is always a concern in the winter months. It’s typical for windows to fog after driving for a few minutes in cold conditions, leaving murky visibility. This happens when the warm air inside your car meets the cold on your windows, causing condensation to occur.
When this happens, turn on the heat and the front and rear defrosters. This will dehumidify the air and clear your windows from the fog. Note of warning: it may seem like an easy solution, but it is not a good idea to try and wipe away the condensation on your windows with a cloth or your hand. Without changing the climate that is causing the fog, condensation will return, and your windows will fog again.
Another tip for preventing foggy windows in the cold is to turn off the recirculation mode in your car’s air conditioning system. Recirculated air has more moisture content. Turning this off will ensure drier, cool air is running through your car.
Winter Driving Tip #6: Have the Proper Tools with You
In addition to the typical tools you keep in your car in case of a breakdown or flat tire, such as cable jumpers and a spare tire, there are specific tools you should have in the car during the winter months.
A snow brush and ice scraper are essential for safe winter driving in Connecticut. Snow and ice are particularly dangerous as it can easily obstruct your view. It is important to clear off your entire front and rear windows, hood and roof before driving. While driving, ice that is on the roof of your car can melt, causing it to obstruct your visibility. This is not just a suggestion; under Connecticut’s General Statute Section 14-252(a), it is required that drivers remove all snow and ice from their vehicles before driving.
Depending on the severity of the weather, gaining traction on the snow may prove challenging. Just in case, you can keep a bag of rock salt, sand or even cat litter in your trunk. When spread out on packed snow, these materials can create the traction you need to get safely moving again.
Winter Driving Tip #7: Drive with Low-Beam Headlights
During snowy or foggy weather, drive with your low-beam headlights on to ensure safe visibility for you and others on the road.
Did you know that dirty headlights can hinder your driving visibility by 50% or more? Make sure your car’s headlights, directional lights and taillights are all clean and clear before hitting the road.
Winter Driving Tip #8: Avoid Driving
If you have a trip that can wait, it may be best to stay home until weather conditions improve. If the weather is severe, only drive if it is absolutely necessary. The forecast is not always right and Connecticut’s weather can be unpredictable; we’ve all seen conditions become drastically worse and you do not want to be stuck in a dangerous situation once you’re on the road.
When driving in icy or snowy conditions, it’s critical to always use an abundance of caution, especially in the winter months that may pose dangerous driving conditions. Severe weather conditions can increase the severity of potential car accidents.
In the unfortunate event that you are in a motor vehicle accident with injuries, your next steps are critical. Protect your health and legal rights by contacting a personal injury attorney after an accident as soon as possible.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident, contact Robert L. Cavanaugh, Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney with more than 25 years of expertise, by clicking below or calling (203) 259-5400.