Car accidents can happen at any time of year, but when winter sets in and the roads become treacherous, the chances of a collision increase dramatically. By making adequate preparations and driving carefully, you can ensure that you are doing your best to stay safe on the icy roads.
Tires and Chains
Prepare your car for the journey by making sure you have suitable, safe tires and snow chains where necessary. Check your spare tire, too, as you do not want it to let you down when you need it most. Clear your mirrors, windscreens and lights of snow and ice, and ensure your water reservoir is full of an anti-freeze solution so you do not make the situation worse when trying to clean your windscreen.
Drive slowly, regardless of any appointments you may have. Delays are inevitable in icy weather, but when road conditions are treacherous, slow is best. By carrying less momentum, you can make sure that you as a driver have enough time to react to any incidents, such as a car braking suddenly ahead of you or an icy patch of road.
Keep Your Distance
Keep your distance from other vehicles; the more space between your bumper and theirs, the better. Stopping distances are unpredictable on a low-traction surface, and if you or a fellow motorist goes into a skid, you want to make sure there is no one else in the way. Taking safe evasive action relies on having space around you. Failure to bear this rule in mind may lead to you being a sitting duck when someone else falls foul of the conditions.
Concentrate on the road and other motorists. Just because you are alert and driving carefully does not mean other drivers will do the same. By being aware of potential threats, you can react in a timely and safe fashion to avoid a collision.
Check the Weather
Tune in to the weather report, and leave the radio on that station. While it may not make the most thrilling listening material, the weather report could save your life. Winter conditions can change very suddenly, and being informed allows you to make the best possible choices on your journey.†
Minimize distractions in the car if possible. Talking on your cell phone, changing the CD or chatting to a passenger all divide your concentration, and could cost you the split second required to react to an incident in the road ahead. Focus on getting safely to your destination. If you must make a call or answer your cell, pull over in a safe, visible area to do so, but be careful not to beach your car in any drifts.
Plan your route with care. Major roads and highways will have been treated and plowed, and therefore provide more stable driving conditions. Rural roads and mountain passes are best avoided at all costs, as they may be more treacherous than commonly used thoroughfares.
Avoid Certain Areas
Bridges and roads near waterways are also worth attempting to avoid. Large bodies of water can, in suitable cold temperatures, react as a dramatic heat sink, bringing down the temperature of the air around them and allowing ice to form more quickly on the road.
Play it safe when driving in icy conditions. Maneuvers such as quick u-turns or passing other vehicles may be allowable in good weather conditions, but with unpredictable ice and drifting snow, it is best to stay in lane and plan any changes of direction with care to prevent an accident.
Finally, make sure that both you and your car are easily visible. Use your lights at all times, and when traveling particularly slow, turn on your hazards. If possible, you should wear a high visibility jacket so that if you do need to leave your vehicle to dig yourself out or change a tire, other motorists can easily make you out on the side of the road. A large proportion of accidents occur when a motorist collides with a stopped car that they did not see in bad conditions, so reduce this risk by making sure you can be seen. Having a few flares in your trunk can make this small precaution easy in even the most extreme conditions.
Icy roads are unreliable, with slick patches and thick snow to trap cars that stray too far from the central line. By driving sensibly, you can do your best to stay in control and have a safe journey this winter.