As we start the new year and face what will likely be some of our coldest, most wintry weather, it is the perfect time to talk about winter driving tips to prevent car accidents.
Winter weather means more auto accidents, in part caused by drivers who are unprepared for snow and ice.
Winter driving in Michigan is dangerous. Since 2016, there have been well over 20,000 crashes annually involving snowy weather conditions in Michigan:
- 2016: 28,200 snow-related crashes
- 2017: 25,650 snow-related crashes
- 2018: 27,550 snow-related crashes
(Source: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Data Query Tool, Crashes/Entire State/Weather Conditions+2016/Snow/2016-18)
Significantly, extra care must be taken when driving in some parts of Michigan. Before you head out, find out if you and your family may be driving on any of Michigan’s Top 10 roads with the most winter car accidents.
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 winter driving
Our first 8 winter driving tips focus on safety precautions you can take to ensure that your car or truck is winter ready to get you and your family safely where you need to go.
By tending to these important safety issues before you and your family take to the road, you’re helping to protect your family and to prevent car accidents.
Importantly, if you’re not experienced and knowledgeable about cars, please entrust a certified mechanic with making sure these safety steps are taken with your family’s car or truck.
Here are the winter driving tips you should follow before heading out onto Michigan’s winter roads:
- Make sure your antifreeze is topped off.
- Install new wiper blades.
- Fill up your washer fluid. Keep an extra bottle of washer fluid in your trunk.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make sure you have a fresh, clean battery. If your battery is more than three years old, have it tested by a technician.
- Change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles.
- 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 tips while on the road
Our next 6 winter driving safety tips focus on what drivers can do to stay safe once they’re on the road and behind the wheel.
Significantly, 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:
- If you find yourself skidding and losing control, then remember that skids can be controlled if you know how to handle them. Don’t let fear take over in case of a skid on ice.
- Don’t underestimate slipperiness of the roads. Don’t assume the roads aren’t slippery if it’s not freezing or below freezing. Ice can form on roads at any time the temperature drops to 40 degrees, especially when it’s windy.
- 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.
- Slow down when visibility and road conditions are bad.
- Increase your following distance between vehicles by one car at the very least.
- 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 of being hit by another vehicle. As an auto accident attorney, I’ve witnessed many minor crashes turn into catastrophic car accidents when drivers are hit by other motorists after they have exited their vehicles.
Winter driving tips for dealing with skidding wheels
Skidding is always a scary thing to experience. During winter, it’s even more anxiety producing of how quickly one can lose total control due to ice and snow. Here are a few tips to commit to memory before you take to the road.
Rear wheels skidding:
- 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.
- If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), which most cars have, apply steady pressure. The brakes will pulse, which is normal.
- If you have standard brakes, pump gently.
Front wheels skidding:
- Shift to neutral.
- As the wheels skid, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. Steer in the direction you would want to go. Then put the car in drive and gently accelerate.
General safe driving rules apply to winter driving
As always, remember that 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
- 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.