According to Weather.com, weather-related car accidents kill about 5,900 Americans each year. That’s more than the number of fatalities from natural weather-disasters. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that rain and wet pavements are the main culprit of weather-related car accidents; but snow, sleet, ice and slush play a big role in winter auto accidents. The best way to avoid weather-related car accidents may be to stay off the road, but this may not always be possible. However, by taking the proper safety precautions, you can prevent winter-weather driving disasters.
Winterize your car
One of the first things to do is to winterize your car — or get your car ready for the winter. In many cases, this includes checking —or even replacing — the battery. Art of Manliness explains that extreme cold temperatures slow down the chemical reactions required to generate power to the battery. The engine also requires more current from the battery to start the engine during the cold. Ensuring that your battery is in good working order can help prevent the car from stalling during the cold.
The battery isn’t the only part of a car that’s affected by the cold. The lower temperatures can also affect tire pressure, belts and hoses. Art of Manliness warns that for every 10-degree drop in temperature, your tire’s air pressure will drop about 1psi. Keeping tires properly inflated helps keep contact with the roads stable. This can help increase traction while driving in wintry conditions and decrease the risk of a weather-related car accident.
Before winter arrives, car owners should also check that four-wheel drive systems are working properly, the anti-freeze mixture is at 50:50 to prevent the coolant from freezing, and that the oil is fully lubricated to help ensure the vehicle doesn’t stall. Motorists should also keep an emergency kit including flashlights, phone chargers, a first-aid kit, blankets, and water among other essential items with them in case they are stranded or involved in a weather-related car accident and need to wait for assistance from police or an ambulance.
Winterize your behavior
Just because your car is winterized doesn’t mean your completely safe from weather-related car accidents. Motorists may want to adjust their driving habits during the winter. Esurance suggests allowing yourself extra time to get where you need to go and increasing stopping distance. This is the distance between you and the car in front of you. During unsafe weather conditions, you may want to leave three times the normal distance so that if there is an abrupt stop or your car skids, there is less of a chance of crash. Be particularly careful on bridges, overpasses, and other icy or dangerous spots.
Esurance also recommends that drivers:
- Not use cruise control- which can make it difficult to react in time
- Keep windshields clear of ice and snow
- Drive with your lights on during snowfall
- Don’t spin the wheels when stuck in the snow, which can cause the tires to overheat and explode – Instead, gently rock the car back and forth.
- Maintain a safe driving distance of at least 200 feet when behind a snowplow. Attempting to pass can be dangerous because the wing plow blades — which extend several feet – are often unseen.
It’s very important that drivers pay extra attention during winter weather conditions and avoid driving while distracted. It is important to keep a phone in the car in case of an accident or if the car breaks down, but the driver should not be using the phone while behind the wheel. This can be dangerous any time of year. But the snow and ice increase the risk of an accident.
DOT defines a weather-related car accident as a crash that occurs in the presence of adverse weather and/or slick pavement conditions. Each winter, snow and sleet cause more than 210 crashes, icy pavements cause almost 152,000 crashes and snowy or slush pavements cause more than 174,000 collisions. These accidents are unintended and in some cases, they can be prevented. Taking the time to winterize your car, and changing your driving habits to allow for safer distance and better reaction time can help decrease the risk of becoming another winter-related car accident statistic.