Oh the weather outside is frightful!

posted by on Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Oh, the weather outside is frightful..

It's that time of year again. Even though the calendar doesn't say that its winter yet, the weather certainly does. And with the increase in bad weather comes the yearly increase in car accidents. Given that it is that time of year again, we at Iowa Car Accident.com felt that it is a good time of year to for some winter driving tips and tactics.

First, make sure you car is prepared for winter driving. To ensure that your car is in its best condition to handle the conditions, make sure of the following:

  1. Your tires are in good shape- For those cars without four wheel drive and especially those with rear wheel drive, it is advisable to have winter tires. It is amazing the difference in handling those tires can have on snow and ice. At a bare minimum, ensure that your tires have plenty of tread left and are appropriately inflated per the manual
  2. Ensure your wiper blades are in good condition and working properly. They are the most important device when ensuring your visibility on the road.
  3. Your antifreeze, wiper fluid, and other levels- Make sure that you have clean and sufficient amounts of fluid levels including antifreeze, wiper fluid, oil and gas at all times
  4. Brakes- ensuring that your brakes pads, rotors, brake fluid and parking brake are all up to snuff is very important given that stopping on snow and ice is one of the most important capabilities that will help you avoid car accidents this winter.
  5. Battery and distributor- Making sure your car starts in the first place is an often over-looked safety matter. Nothing is worse than getting to your car in the dark, cold, snow and ice and having it not start.
  6. Other systems and checks- Having a general inspection done of your vehicle is advisable as well. Making sure that all wiring, hoses, belts, valves, filters and other systems and components are in good working conditions will also ensure that your car is in the best shape for winter driving.

Second, make sure you have the necessary supplies and equipment in case a problem does occur.

  1. A spare tire with the correct air pressure is a must. Also make sure you have a jack, wrench and other necessary equipment for changing a tire.
  2. Mobile or car phone- In years past a car phone or cell phone was a luxury few of us could afford. It has now become a safety necessity. Even if you don't carry a car or mobile phone, very cheap phones are available with very cheap plans that can be activated only during the winter are available solely for emergency use. Don't get stranded on a desolate stretch of road in a blizzard without one.
  3. Ice scraper- you always need an ice scraper!
  4. Jumper cables- once again a must-have in case you forgot to replace the old battery or, as can happen, the new one quits on you.
  5. Shovel- if you get stuck, a shovel can help you dig to hopefully be able to get traction,
  6. Salt, sand, or traction agent- it is also helpful if your have some additional traction assistance mechanism or ability to gain traction should you get stuck
  7. Sand bags or other weight on the back tires if necessary.
  8. Blankets- If you are to get stranded, it's extremely important to be able to stay warm.
  9. Flashlight with new batteries.

If you can, stay home! In the worst weather, it is advisable, if you can avoid it, to wait until the conditions are better. Also, drive during the day time if possible.

If you must go out, listen to driving reports. Avoid auto accidents and the areas with the highest probability of congestion.

Make sure your car windows, mirrors and lights are free of snow and ice build-up and fog before you leave. It may take a few extra minutes but it will be well worth it.

Okay, so your car is prepared and you have to get out and drive (I mean, the boss isn't canceling work? Jerk.) Most importantly, leave yourself much more time to get where you are going. As a corollary, make sure you drive much slower as well. Speed is one of the biggest problems on the roadways, especially during bad weather. If something goes wrong in front of you, you need to be able to get stopped. In wintery conditions, one cannot count on speed limits as an indicator of appropriate speed. Also, using lower gears will help keep the car at a reasonable speed and correspondingly help with traction. However, avoid abrupt gear changes as they can lead to skidding.

Proper use of brakes- If you have anti-lock brakes, you will often feel then begin to pulsate. If you notice them doing so, DO NOT let off the brakes. This is how anti-lock brakes are designed and you need to continue to apply pressure appropriate to slow the vehicle. Simply brake as you would normally, in other words, hard enough for the given conditions. On the other hand, if you do not have anti-lock brakes and they begin to lock up, it is advisable to ease off to avoid sliding. Brakes work better if the wheels are not sliding across the contact area and in a vehicle without anti-lock brakes, that sometimes needs to be done manually.

Be especially careful if the road composition changes or if you drive over a bridge or an overpass. Such places increase the likelihood of the automobile sliding and, accordingly, avoid significant turns or corrections until at you reach a safer area on the roadway.

Use you lights to ensure the best visibility and to ensure that other drivers see you.

Avoid distractions such as talking or texting on a mobile phone, eating, doing makeup, or even the radio or in-depth conversations. The more attention you pay to your driving the better off you will be.

Possibly most importantly, and even more important than normally because of the significantly increased risk of an accident, always make sure you and your passengers use their seatbelts!!

Driving during the winter time is not the best, but with a few precautions including the ones mentioned here, you will be most likely to arrive at your destination safe and sound. If you are in an accident make sure you contact law enforcement and get any injured individuals, including yourself, immediate treatment. For a complete discussion of all steps to take following and auto accident, please click here: Accident Checklist

And remember to check the IowaCarAccident.com blog regularly for more on driving and accidents in Iowa.