As we brace for another snow storm this holiday weekend, it feels like we need a reminder on safe winter driving in Southern Colorado. While most Coloradans like to consider ourselves good drivers, the truth is we are among the worst in the country. So here is a reminder on what to do during winter driving to stay safer.
The first suggestions for safe winter driving are all things you should do before you even get in your car. Perform regular maintenance on your car; keep your tank at least half full; remove any snow and ice from your car before driving.
Once you are on the road, there are several changes you should make to your driving habits for safe winter driving. Here is a list of some good suggestions:
- Reduce your speed. Adjust to changing conditions and allow extra time to reach your destination.
- Keep windows clear. Switching on the air conditioner can remove moisture from inside the vehicle and improve defroster performance.
- Give the car ahead of you extra space. Braking on a slippery surface requires more distance, so increase your distance with the car ahead. The recommended following distance on dry roads is three to four seconds. This should be increased to eight to 10 seconds for wet or icy roads.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Use lower gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Make smooth, careful movements. Avoid skids by anticipating lane changes, turns and curves. Steering in icy conditions requires smooth and careful movements. Abrupt movements break traction and can start a skid. If your vehicle starts to skid, steer into the direction of the slide.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly when pulling out of the driveway or from a stop sign is the best way to regain traction and avoid slipping or sliding. It also takes longer to slow down on icy roads. So at intersections, allow for long, slow and steady stops to avoid skids.
- Know your brakes. Locked wheels can make your vehicle slide or skid. If your vehicle has antilock brakes, which newer model cars have, push the brake pedal firmly and hold it down. The pedal will vibrate and pulse against your foot, but this is normal. Do not pump the pedal or remove your foot. The system is working as it was designed to work. If you do not have antilock brakes, still apply firm, steady pressure.
- Do not use cruise control. When driving on a slippery surface, such as rain or ice, never use cruise control. You want to be able to respond immediately, if you start losing traction.
- Use extra caution on bridges, ramps and overpasses. These areas are likely to freeze first and stay frozen during a winter storm.
- Stay focused, alert, and aware. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Actions by other vehicles may alert you to problems more quickly or give you time to react safely.
Also, make sure you understand the laws that apply to winter driving to avoid fines, but also because complying with these laws helps contribute to safe winter driving. Every year, over 116,000 people are injured and 1,300 killed in the United States on the roads during winter driving conditions; following these tips can help you stay safer on the roads in winter conditions.
Unfortunately, there is no way to be perfectly protected—other people’s poor decisions can have negative consequences for even the safest driver. But following these tips will lead to safe winter driving practices and help keep you and your family safer. In the event you are hurt by an unsafe driver in winter driving conditions, get a lawyer you can trust to help you protect your rights.