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Tips for Traveling Safely in Inclement Winter Weather

As winter arrives in full force, drivers getting behind the wheel face challenging obstacles such as snow, slush and icy roadways. If you do choose to venture out onto snowy trails, here are some tips for a safer and less worrisome winter drive.

Preplanning- Before the Storm

Whether you are preparing to set out on a long journey or just getting your car in shape for winter, preplanning and maintenance make all the difference. With snow, slush and ice responsible for nearly one in three weather related vehicle crashes, it is important to do all that you can to ensure a safe trip. Here are some crucial steps to winterize your vehicle:

  • Check, or have a mechanic check, the charge of your vehicle’s battery, your coolant system, the repair of your windshield wipers, and vital fluids (Engine Oil, Transmission Fluid, Power Steering Fluid and Brake Fluid).
  • Stock your glovebox with essentials: water, snacks, a first aid kit, and a battery powered cell phone charger. Also include a Severe Weather Kit.
  • Be aware of your gas tanks’ levels. In winter months, try to keep it at least half full to allow you to run the engine for warmth in an emergency.
  • Check the status of your tires: Are your treads healthy and at a good tire pressure? Cold temperature almost ensures lower tire pressure, watch your levels.
  • Even with healthy tires, it is a good idea to swap your all-weather treads for snow tires. This is important because snow tires are made with different compounds of rubber than standard tires, giving them more grip on the road.
  • Depending on the expected ice and snowfall for your region, consider exploring the use of snow chains, which give your car the extra grip it needs when battling the worst storms.

En Route- In the Eye of the Storm

Regional weather changes could impact the safety and ease of your drive. As you travel, especially out of state, always check for weather updates on your starting point, travel route and destination. Monitor the road conditions on weather apps, local/national TV news stations and local radio. Keep an eye out for flashing roadway signs alerting you to accidents, weather alerts and detours. If possible, tune into the local radio station for minute to minute updates.

As you begin the journey, keep these driving tips in mind:

  • Speed limits are created with ideal driving conditions (dry road, sunny day) in mind, not for a wintery mix. Ensure safe driving in any condition by decreasing your speed and increasing the following distance between cars.
  • In snowy and icy situations, pay close attention to the road and other drivers. It is safest not to use cruise control.
  • Bridges, elevated roadways and overpasses maintain a lower constant temperature and typically freeze first, approach with caution.
  • Avoid driving beside or behind snow plows and sand/salt trucks.
  • Rapid accelerations or decelerations can be dangerous and cause your tires to spin out and loose traction. If possible, when going up a hill try to gain enough speed prior to climbing the hill that it can be done at a constant rate

Accidents Happen- Stay Calm

If you find yourself stranded due to impassible roads or an accident, do not panic. After assessing the situation for danger:

  • Mark your car with reflectors or flares
  • Make sure your exhaust pipe is not blocked with snow or debris. Running your car every 10 minutes will keep you warm but if the pipe is blocked, carbon monoxide could build up inside of your car.
  • If the car is safe, get back in your car and call for help. Your well-stocked Emergency Kit will come in handy: coats and blankets to stay warm; food and water for sustenance; and phone charger to ensure you have connectivity to family and emergency assistance.

Remember, your safety is more important than keeping a scheduled trip. Winter weather can be challenging no matter how prepared you are, sometimes the best option is to just stay put until road conditions improve. If you must travel in the storm, monitor the weather forecast, prepare your vehicle in advance and adjust your driving based on the conditions.

If you do find yourself in an accident, you need to have an experienced attorney by your side. For more information, contact Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz today.

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