Top 6 Mistakes People Make While Driving in Winter
On average 24% of vehicle crashes are attributed to poor weather conditions on the road. That is 1.5 million crashes, over 600,000 injuries and 7,130 deaths on average each year. Here is a list that can help you avoid some common pitfalls and possibly save your life.
1. Doing Everything Too Fast
Slow down! Take more time to accelerate, brake, turn, and change lanes. Slowing down allows you to retain more control. If you hit an icy patch at 30 mph, you are less likely to spin as far or as hard. Be especially aware of common areas that present a higher risk, such as bridges and overpasses. This is not the time to take a new route, but if you must, please watch the signs and drive cautiously. It may take more time to get to your destination, but it is better to get there safely than end up in an accident and possibly not get there at all.
2. Lack of Preparation
A regular check of your tire tread, tire air pressure, windshield wipers, washer fluid, and brakes is even more important in winter weather conditions. The tread on your tires and tire air pressure help maintain traction and balance, which can help you if you hit a slick spot on the road. Visibility is key; use a quality washer fluid (you can find one that is freeze resistant) and make sure you have working wipers before you leave the house. You never know when a plow or truck could sling a pile of sludge on your windshield. Never let your gas tank get too low. Half of a tank should be the minimum in poor weather just in case you are stuck in traffic. ALWAYS wear your seatbelt, this should be a given, but it is worth saying again. Additionally, you should bring a charged cell phone (if possible), a small amount of cash, emergency kit, something for traction (like salt or kitty litter), and a folding shovel. A few extra items can save you a lot of grief if you do end up sliding off of the road.
3. Overcompensation in Driving
What is overcompensating or overdriving? It is the term for that moment when you hit ice and your car starts to slide, so you do the natural thing – start to panic and turn your wheel quickly in the opposite direction! Don’t do this (if you can help it). What you should do is turn SLIGHTLY in direction that your car is sliding. Try not to turn against the slide, if you have enough room to do so. Attempt to regain traction before you start moving back in the other direction. A slide can happen at any time in bad weather, but chances are if you slow down (see number 2), it won’t be as likely.
4. Under Driving
As opposed to overdriving, try not to under drive either. Don’t use your cruise control while driving in slick conditions. It lessens your control if you hit an icy spot. Turn the radio down or off, put your cell phone down, and try to stop snacking and sipping your coffee. It may be hard, but if the roads are rough, you need all of your attention on the road. Don’t think because you have four or all wheel drive that you are safe either. Four-wheel drive can help prevent a spinout, but it will not help you stop if you slide on ice. Four-wheel drive means that one tire in the back and one tire in the front have traction and all-wheel drive means that all four wheels maintain traction.
NOTE: On four-wheel drive vehicles, the front two tires should be the same and the back two tires should be the same. All four tires do not need to be the same type or brand of tire. However, on all-wheel drive vehicles, all the tires should match.
5. Not Knowing When to Quit
There are a number of reasons to pull off the road and take a break – possibly for the night. Preventing an accident is number one! If it is late and you are getting fatigued, pull over. If the stress of driving in bad weather conditions is too much, pull over. If there is a white out, pull over! When you do, put your flashers on and be patient. You are better off safe than sorry.
6. Not Giving Additional Space
The process of stopping is going to take longer and is more dangerous, so make sure to give extra space between you and the car in front of you. Normally you should follow the “three second rule” to determine how close you should be to another vehicle. The difference between the “three second rule” and other distance gauges, such as a car length, is that the “three second rule” changes with your speed. For example, if you drive 25 mph, you would be traveling 37 feet per second. This means that you should have about 111 feet between you and the car in front of you. However, if you drive 65 mph, traveling 96 feet per second, you would need to remain 288 feet away. On slippery roads or in poor weather, you should give three times the normal amount of space. It seems like a lot, but at 65 mph, you should stay almost 900 feet away from the car in front of you. This may sound like a really bad math problem (you know the kind I’m talking about), but it is really important!