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14 winter driving tips: How to avoid car accidents in snow and ice

November 30, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan auto accident attorney provides a winter driving checklist

Winter again. Now is the time to get prepared for winter driving. In metro Detroit, we’re expected to get one to five inches tonight. In the Upper Peninsula, we’ve gotten heaps of snow already. Winter weather also means more auto accidents, in part caused by drivers who are unprepared for snow and ice.

As auto accident attorneys, we want you to get a head start on preparing, so you know what to do. There are easy tips that can get you home safe and sound after an unexpected snowfall or a dramatic drop in temperature.

Preparing your car for the winter

Here are some basic safety tips on making sure your vehicle is winter ready. These simple precautions really can help prevent accidents. If you’re not good with cars, pay a trusted and experienced mechanic to check out your vehicle. Oil change shops will often include these checks with your oil change.

1. Make sure your antifreeze is topped off.

2. Install new wiper blades.

3. Fill up your washer fluid. Keep an extra bottle of washer fluid in your truck.

4. Check your tires. Here’s an old trick: take a penny and stick it into the tread head first. If you can see Lincoln’s head, it’s time to invest in some new tires.

5. Check tire air pressure. Do this monthly using a pressure gauge. The correct tire pressure is located on your vehicle’s tire information label (on the technical information sheet inside the driver’s side door) or in the owner’s manual. You can also get them checked at a tire dealer.

6. Make sure you have a fresh, clean battery. If your battery is more than three years old, have it tested by a technician.

7. Change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles.

8. Have an emergency kit just in case. An emergency kit can include blankets, flares, a medical first-aid kit, a flashlight, jumper cables, bottled water, snacks, a shovel, candles and matches.

Winter driving safety tips

Many people don’t know what to do if they’re faced with black ice or the task of driving through inches of snow. Here are some safety tips on how to react in such situations.

9. If you find yourself skidding and losing control… Skids can be controlled if you know how to handle them. Don’t let fear take over in case of a skid on ice.

Rear wheels skidding:
o Steer in the direction would want the front wheels to go. For instance, if your rear-wheels are sliding left, steer left. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your car completely under control.
o If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), which most cars have, apply steady pressure. The brakes will pulse, which is normal.
o If you have standard brakes, pump gently.

Front wheels skidding:
o Shift to neutral.
o As the wheels skid, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. Steer in the direction would want to go. Then put the car in drive and gently accelerate.

10. Don’t underestimate slipperiness of the roads. Don’t assume the roads aren’t slippery if it’s not freezing or below. Ice can form on roads at any time the temperature drops to 40 degrees, especially when it’s windy.

11. Anticipate black ice. Beware of bridges, underpasses, low areas or shaded areas (such as expanses of landscape) and intersections. Ice can lurk in these areas, which might look dry or only slightly wet.

12. Slow down when visibility and road conditions are bad.

13. Increase your following distance between vehicles by one car at the very least.

14. If you’ve been in a minor accident or your car stalls, pull over and stay in your vehicle while you wait for help to arrive. Do not get out to inspect the damage because you run the risk being hit by another vehicle. As an auto accident attorney, I’ve witnessed many minor crashes turn into catastroph of car accidents when drivers are hit by subsequent motorists.

As always, the regular rules of safe driving apply in the winter: buckle up your safety belt, don’t drive distracted, don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive and make sure your child is safely secured in a mandated child safety car seat or booster seat.

Our auto accident attorneys wish you and yours safe travels.

Steve Gursten is one of the nation’s top auto accident attorneys. He is head of Michigan Auto Law and president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve has received the highest verdict in the state for a car accident or truck accident victim in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information to protect yourselves:

Is your baby properly secured in the car seat?

Michigan safe driving tips

10 things to know if you’ve been injured in a Michigan car accident

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for help from an auto accident attorney.

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