According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, about 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place during the winter. Winter storms, bad weather, and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every year. With inclement weather in the forecast, AAA East Central advises motorists to take precautions to avoid deadly crashes.
“Preventative steps today can go a long way tomorrow,” says Lori Cook, safety advisor for AAA East Central. “Weather conditions that lead to black ice, heavy snow, and other rough driving conditions are particularly dangerous this time of year.”
AAA East Central offers the following tips for driving in winter weather:
- Stay Home. This is the number one way to avoid a crash in the winter.
- Leave Early. If you’re running late to work, that’s going to lead to anxiety which will cloud your judgment, possibly leading to risky driving behaviors.
- Slow down. Accelerate, turn, and brake as gradually and smoothly as you can. This will help you maintain control in rough conditions.
- Don’t tailgate. Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be extended to a minimum of five to six seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time will provide additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.
- Never use cruise control on slippery roads. If your vehicle hydroplanes or skids, you will lose the ability to regain some traction simply by lifting off the accelerator. It will be harder to recover from the loss of traction if cruise control is active.
- Turn against the skid. If your car begins to skid, continue to steer in the direction you want the car to go.
To prepare a vehicle for the winter ahead, AAA recommends the following tips:
- Have your battery tested. Last winter, AAA East Central contractors responded to more than 66,000 battery calls, the number one call received by the Club.
- Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. Purchase one-piece, beam-type or rubber-clad “winter” blades to fight snow and ice buildup. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry an ice scraper.
- Inspect your tires. Make sure tires have adequate tread depth – at least 4/32” – as worn tires can affect a driver’s ability to stop in slick conditions. An easy way to check for wear is by inserting a quarter into your tread groove. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed, the tread depth is less than 4/32” and it’s time to replace your tires. Also, check that your car has a spare tire and keep it properly inflated in case you need it. In harsh winter climates, a set of snow tires may be a wise investment.
- Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. The kit should include sand or cat litter, a small shovel, flashlight, an ice scraper or snow brush, booster cables, a blanket, gloves or mittens and flares or reflective triangles.