It’s only been a few weeks and yet you already miss warm weather. You miss being able to get up late, throw your clothes on and get directly into your car to go to work. Thanks to Jack Frost, you now have to get up early, put on two layers of clothing, and spend an extra 15 minutes defrosting your windshield before backing out of the driveway—which, by the way, has also become a chore due to the layers of ice you find every morning.
You moved to the south to avoid this type of weather, but apparently it has followed you. Instead of enjoying 60 degree weather year round, you’re stuck with cold, wet, and sometimes snowy southern winters. Unfortunately, it’s not just the snow and ice you’re dreading, but the winter driving as well. It seems like every year when you lived up north, you got into some sort of winter accident. You were hoping to avoid that tradition this year, but the predicted forecasts say that Virginia may be in for a lot of snow this winter.
Should you be concerned? Since Virginians aren’t accustomed to heavy winters, will they be more cautious or less cautious? Since the winter may be milder, do you have to worry about the same risks you did when you lived up north?
How Winter Weather Affects Driving
The Federal Highway Administration’s Road Weather Management Program estimates that nearly six million car crashes occur annually throughout the United States, 23% of which are weather related. Data taken from an RWMP report puts these numbers in perspective with injury and fatality rates. It suggests that nearly 50,000 people are injured or killed every year as a result of poor driving and road conditions during (and after) rainstorms and snowfall.
Unfortunately, knowing that your accident risks increase during storms isn’t going to help you unless you know why. Understanding the weather factors that put you at risk can help you take proper precautions to avoid a tragic accident. These factors include:
- Impaired visibility. Torrential downpours, blizzards, fog, and ice on your windshield can drastically decrease your ability to see, especially at night. In addition to visibility-limiting factors outside your vehicle, cold weather can cause your windshield to quickly fog up, creating visibility impairments inside your car as well. Make sure that when your ability to see is diminished, you take the proper precautions to fix the problem or pull off the road until you can see properly.
- Slippery pavement. Rainwater, snow, sleet, slush and black ice can quickly disrupt your tires’ traction, causing you to spin-out or slide. Make sure you drive slowly and, if you must brake, do so carefully while keeping your steering wheel straight.
- Road debris and damage. Fallen trees, mud puddles, slush, and sticks can all accumulate on roads during storms, causing a minefield of debris in your path. Additionally, when water finds its way into cracks in the road and then freezes, it expands, creating larger crevices and potholes. Make sure you pay close attention to your surroundings and adjust your path to avoid potholes and cracks.
- Other careless drivers. Unfortunately, you can only be as safe as others allow you to be. There may be times when even though you’re following all the safety rules and being as careful as possible, another driver’s negligence causes you harm. Try to stay alert and predict your fellow drivers’ reactions to stay clear of potential danger.
Weathering the Storms
Now that you know your risks, make sure you take proper precautions when driving in poor weather. Remember, when you’re behind the wheel, you’re responsible for not only your own life, but your passengers’ lives and the lives of the people around you as well. Stay safe, drive carefully, and respect that the weather could cause you harm.
Make sure your family and friends are aware of their winter driving risks. Use social media to share this page with them or tell them to contact us directly to discuss any potential questions or concerns they may have about a recent accident. Remember, they may not know their risks until it’s too late. By clicking the media icons on this page, you could help prevent a tragic accident.