Despite driving less this year and possibly into the winter due to ongoing pandemic restrictions, drivers must still anticipate weather and its related safety impacts. Besides the regular driving safety tips there are additional winter driving tips to consider.
“Knowing how to handle winter driving conditions and learning to adjust your driving habits is just one way to mitigate your risk this winter season,” said Keith Wilson, a Safety and Occupational Health manager with Naval Safety Center’s Shore Directorate.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, over 70% of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions, which receive more than 5 inches average snowfall annually. Snow and ice reduce pavement friction and maneuverability, causing slower speeds, reduced roadway capacity, and increased crash risk. It can take up to 10 times longer to stop, so one should reduce speed by 30% on wet pavement and at least 50% on snow-covered roads.
What else does this mean? One can anticipate reduced freeway speeds between 3% and 13% in light snow and 5% and 40% in heavy snow. Heavy snow and sleet can reduce visibility. Lanes and roads obstructed by snow accumulation will reduce capacity and increase traffic delays. Use caution when driving over bridges, overpasses or any elevated roads, as they will freeze first. Unlike surface roads, elevated roadways have no way to store heat and will ice over quicker when temperatures drop below freezing.
Perhaps you are one of those drivers from regions that regularly get snow and your confidence in driving ability is high. A factor in many serious and fatal crashes is overconfidence in one’s abilities and/or equipment (traction control, antilock brakes, stability control and good tires). For black ice, no speeds are safe and you can lose control at 10 mph especially if there is a bank or slope to the roadway.
Even the most prepared drivers may find themselves sliding on a patch of ice. If the front end of your vehicle begins to slide, do not try to speed up or slam on the brakes. Ease your foot off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel until the car slows down. If the back end begins to slide, turn your steering wheel in the direction of the slide without hitting the brake. The NHTSA advises if your car has anti-lock brakes, apply firm and continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If your vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes, you will typically need to pump the brake pedal to prevent your wheels from locking.
As outside temperatures drop so, will the inflation pressure on your tires. Make sure your tires are filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, found in the owner’s manual or on the inside of the driver’s doorframe. According to NHTSA, be sure to check your tires’ pressure when they are cold, which means they have not been driven for at least three hours. Are you planning to use snow tires on your vehicle? Be sure to check out www.nhtsa.gov/tires for tire ratings before you buy new ones and look for tires with the snowflake symbol.
Did you know at 32 degrees, AAA says a car battery is 35% weaker and at zero degrees, the battery loses about 60% of its strength? Therefore, even if you capably handle driving on the winter roads Mother Nature can still ruin your day and leave you stranded.
If you are stuck in the snow stay with your vehicle, it will provide temporary shelter and make it easier for help to find you. Be visible by tying a brightly colored cloth to the antenna of your vehicle or at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. Make sure your exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice, or mud. A blocked exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to seep into the vehicle’s interior while the engine is running.
In the unfortunate event one is stuck stranded on the roadway, a storm preparedness kit is always a good asset to have in the vehicle. With this year’s pandemic, additional personal protective equipment items should be included as well.
Recommended storm preparedness kit items include:
- Drinking water
- First aid kit
- Jumper cables
- Snow shovel
- Paper towels
- Window washer solvent
- Basic toolkit
- Face masks
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfecting wipes
A preparedness kit for your vehicle helps ensure you are prepared to deal with winter conditions. By having a kit and adjusting your driving habits as needed, you will have taken the first steps toward a safer winter regardless what you may encounter on the road. Also important is to maintain your situational awareness and be alert to other drivers’ actions on the road.
“It’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks,” Wilson said. “If you absolutely do not need to be on the roads, stay home.”
For more information about preparing for winter weather go to: https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather, www.nhtsa.gov/winter-driving-tips or visit the resources on our website at https://navalsafetycenter.navy.mil/
Written by Leslie Tomaino, Naval Safety Center Safety Promotions via Navy.mil