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Collisions are common in the wintertime because snow, sleet, hail, and ice make for poor driving conditions. All it takes is a single patch of black ice to cause a devastating crash.
Even if you have lived in a cold climate all your life and are fairly confident driving in snowy weather, most of the drivers around you probably aren’t. Unfortunately, this lack of confidence can increase their risk of causing an accident.
Since indecision can lead to hesitation, and hesitation can result in wrecks, everyone should review a few safe driving tips at the start of the season, regardless of how much experience they might have. Those who are already comfortable traveling in the winter can always benefit from a quick refresher course, while those who are used to more temperate weather can gain the confidence to maneuver safely in the snow and ice.
Read on to learn a few tips for avoiding winter car accidents on icy roads:
1. Maintain Your Tires
Your tires are the first line of defense against skidding. They should have adequate tread depth and remain inflated to their optimum capacity.
If your tires are bald, replace them as soon as possible. If they need air, fill them at your local gas station the next time you go for a drive. Since air condenses when it cools, you will need to check the tire pressure more frequently in the winter than you do during the warmer months.
2. Reduce Your Speed
The faster you are traveling, the easier it is to lose control of your vehicle, especially if there is snow, ice, or slush on the ground. When road conditions are especially poor, be prepared to travel significantly slower than the posted speed limit. To avoid feeling the urge to race to your destination, leave a little earlier whenever you have to be somewhere at a specific time.
3. Increase Your Stopping Distance
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advises truckers to leave four to five seconds of stopping distance between their tractor-trailer and the vehicle in front of them. Since passenger vehicles are lighter, though, they do not require as much stopping distance.
In general, motorists should leave three seconds between their car and the car in front of them; however, when the roads are icy and skidding is likely, they may need four seconds or more to avoid causing a rear-end collision.
4. Make Maneuvers Gradually
The American Automobile Association reminds drivers to accelerate and decelerate slowly when traveling in the snow. In general, you should try not to make any sudden maneuvers because you are more likely to to lose control of your vehicle when the ground is slick.
5. Turn off Cruise Control
If your commute is fairly long, turning on cruise control every morning may be second nature; however, using it when the road is wet or icy can be incredibly dangerous. Despite the many advancements in automotive technology, cruise control systems still have a few limitations.
For example, they cannot gauge whether the tires have lost contact with the road. Thus, if you end up hydroplaning or skidding across ice, the wheels could start spinning rapidly in an attempt to maintain a constant speed. This will only make it harder to regain control of your vehicle and could ultimately result in a catastrophic crash.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, icy pavement is responsible for approximately 13 percent of weather-related collisions. Although the above tips can help you avoid a winter wreck, the only foolproof way to ensure your safety is to stay off the roads entirely. If the weather is especially bad and you do not actually have to go out, consider staying home until conditions clear.