Staying safe on the roads in Virginia requires motorists to adjust their driving styles during the winter when the chances of being involved in an accident increase due to snow, ice, and slippery roads. Following the suggestions below can help you and your passengers to avoid traffic mishaps and remain safe in the coming months.
Suggestions for Safe Winter Driving
The best way to stay safe in winter is to stay off the roads if you possibly can. Drive only when it’s necessary and spend as little time behind the wheel as possible. When you must drive, do your best to follow the guidelines below.
- Have your tires, battery, brakes, anti-freeze, and other fluids checked by your mechanic before the weather gets bad.
- Don’t start your car to warm it up in a garage or other enclosed space.
- Be sure your tires are in good shape and correctly inflated.
- See that you have sufficient fuel to run the car and stay warm if you should break down or get stuck in the snow.
- Keep blankets, water, a flashlight, an ice scraper, your telephone, a charger, and other necessities in the car to be ready for an emergency.
- Put a snow shovel and a bag of salt in your trunk in case you need to dig your car out.
Adjust Your Driving Technique
Drive slowly on slippery roads and avoid accelerating or decelerating quickly. Remember that sharp turns and quick starts and stops can cause you to lose traction. Try to “feel” the surface of the road through your feet on the pedals. Be slow, gentle, and gradual with the movements of your hands and feet. If you have a newer car, you might have an amber stability control system warning light that flashes to warn you when your tires are losing traction.
Apply your brakes slowly and gently when you have to slow down or stop. Your normal stopping distance doubles on a wet road, triples on snow, and is even longer on ice, so don’t tailgate. If you have to drive up a hill, try to build up some speed before ascending, and don’t over-accelerate or stop on the hill. Remember that it’s never a good idea to use cruise control on slippery roads.
Stuck in the Snow?
If you lose traction and can’t move your car, don’t spin your wheels and dig yourself in more deeply. Unless you’re very close to a source of help, don’t get out and walk in a snowstorm. If you can’t dig yourself out, stay in your car and call for roadside assistance. By day, you can tie something colorful onto your antenna to make yourself visible when help arrives. By night, you can leave your interior dome light or parking lights on, so you can be found easily. If you have enough fuel, leave your car running and keep your heat on but be sure your exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, which could force carbon monoxide into the interior of the car.
If you lose traction and begin to slide, do not slam on the brakes. You can regain control of the car if you keep your eyes and your wheels pointed in the direction you want to go and do the following:
- If your front wheels are skidding, ease off the accelerator and let the tires regain their grip on the road. Then steer smoothly in the direction you want to follow.
- If your rear wheels are skidding, take your foot off the gas but don’t apply the brakes. Just steer in the direction that your rear end is sliding until the car straightens out. Then continue in the direction you want to go.
Using Anti-Lock Brakes
If you have no time to utilize the techniques above and simply need to stop fast to avoid a collision, step on the brake pedal, hold it down, steer in the right direction, and rely on your anti-lock brake system (ABS) to stop the car. The vibration or shuddering of the brake pedal means the ABS computer is letting each wheel brake as hard as it can for the traction it has, so just keep braking until you come to a stop.
Have You Been Injured in a Winter Accident in VA?
Even if you’re practicing the safe-driving tips above, other drivers might not be so careful. If you’re hurt by a negligent driver in a winter accident, an experienced car accident attorney can evaluate your case and help you seek fair compensation for your medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. Contact us online, start a chat, or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.