Winter Driving Tips: How to Avoid Car Accidents in Winter
It happens every year without fail. The weather turns cold, the white stuff flies, and it becomes clear that we’ve all forgotten how to drive in the snow.
For a personal injury law firm, you might expect our blog to be focused on accident victims at this time of year. We thought, however, we’d do something different and write a post focused on preventing accidents, because keeping people safe matters the most.
Below, we’ve compiled a thorough list of suggestions to help keep you safe on the road this winter. It includes tips for:
- Warming up your vehicle;
- Preparing for an emergency;
- What to do in an actual emergency;
- Pointers about vehicle maintenance; and
- What you can do behind the wheel to stay safe.
Getting ready to go
Before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to let the car warm up a little. This should give you time to clear snow and make sure the windows aren’t fogged over. It will also give you time to make sure you have everything you need. Just don’t let it idle needlessly long as that is also not good for the environment.
It’s important to do a thorough job cleaning snow and ice from your vehicle before every trip. To make sure you can see well while driving, clear all snow for windows and exterior mirrors. To make sure others can see you clearly, clear snow from your lights, too. And for the safety of those you share the road with, clear all other snow and ice from the body of your car especially the roof. As winter approaches, make sure you have a good, sturdy snow brush/ice scraper handy.
Let the windows clear up
Warming up the car gives fog a chance to clear from windows, allowing for better visibility. At the onset of cold weather, make sure your defrosting system is working properly. Also, have a lint-free cloth in the car to wipe the inside of your windows clean if you’re pressed for time.
Always make sure to wear clothes that allow for a free range of motion while driving. Winter driving requires quicker-than-average reaction times. Clothing that restricts in any way could lead to trouble.
Bring warm clothing with you when driving in winter, even if you don’t plan to be outside for long. Plans change. You might need to give another driver a push. Your car might break down. Or you might get into an accident. Be prepared.
Check road conditions before heading out, especially after recent snowfall or high winds that could lead to drifting. You can get regularly updated road condition information two ways in Ontario:
- Call 511
- Visit https://511on.ca/
Numbers to keep handy
In the event of an accident, program this number into your cell phone:
- 1 (888) 310-1122
This is the non-emergency line for the Communications Centre of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). Use this instead of calling 911, which should only be used if someone’s life at risk.
Also, make sure your phone is fully charged before leaving. It could be a literal lifeline. And bring a charger you can use in the car if it’s going to be a long trip.
Pack a survival kit
When the weather is at its worst, emergency services are stretched to their limits. They could have several accidents to respond to. Your situation, though uncomfortable, could be a low priority for them. That’s why it’s always a great idea to have a winter survival kit packed. It should include things like:
- A flashlight;
- A small shovel;
- Winter boots;
- Non-perishable high-energy food; and
- A candle and matches.
This is in addition to a standard auto safety and emergency kit that includes jumper cables and road flares. You’ve got one of those, right?
In case you get stranded
If it looks like it’s going to be a while before help arrives, keep everyone in the car for safety and warmth. Turn on your 4-way emergency lights so everyone can see you. You can run the motor to help keep warm, but check first to see the end of the tailpipe is clear of snow and open the window a crack. This reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
To prepare for the chance of being stranded, fill the tank before heading out. It could be the difference between freezing and staying warm. It also adds weight to the vehicle. This gives you better traction and might keep you from getting stranded in the first place.
Stick to well-traveled roads
If the weather outside is frightful, it’s no time to explore the road less traveled. Stay on major routes instead. They’ll always be clear first, due to being higher priority for plowing and salting. They also see more traffic then side roads and they’re also better patrolled by the OPP in case you do wind up in trouble.
The rubber on winter tires stays more flexible in cold weather. This allows for better traction. All-weather tires, which start to lose their grip around 7°C, are no substitute, even if you have anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and all-wheel drive.
When replacing your tires, make sure you do all four tires. Some people only replace the two front tires on front-wheel drive vehicles, but doing so leads to less efficient traction, braking, and control.
Winter driving habits worth cultivating
When driving in winter, it’s always a good idea to slow down a little. Remember, posted speed limits assume ideal road conditions. And if you’re travelling on a poorly maintained road, slow down and never drive faster than what would allow you to fully control your car.
Always use your headlights in winter. Running lights may not be enough to make you visible to other drivers. Remember to only use low beams in fog and heavy snow.
Don’t use cruise control during the winter. If you go into a skid with cruise control on, your vehicle could speed up at the worst possible time.
Ease up on the throttle crossing bridges and driving under overpasses. Even if the highway seems clear, these areas tend to ice over first and could cause you to lose control.
Also, slow before coming to a curve, then take it at a steady speed. Braking on the curve could cause a skid. If you do end up skidding, don’t brake. Steer the direction you need to go. Things should straighten themselves out on their own if you catch it early enough, and you go easy on the gas.
As a side note, make sure you familiarize yourself with the brakes of any new vehicle before you drive it – they tend to act differently when they are new. You could need them sooner than you expect.
When the weather turns nasty, you don’t want to be caught unprepared. Fish-tailing. Skidding. Getting stuck in a ditch. No, thank you. Winter driving demands special attention to safety.
By following the simple rules above, you should be ready for whatever winter throws your way. Just remember to be prepared, drive cautiously, and above all, don’t panic. Keep a level head on the roads over the Ontario winter months, and before you know it, it’ll be spring again.
In case of emergency . . .
If you or a loved one are injured in a car accident this winter, call the dedicated team of car accident lawyers at Mackesy Smye today to find out what we can do for you. We have a wealth of experience dealing with car accidents, and we’ll do all we can to help you get the benefits you deserve.