How To Drive Safely During A Winter Storm
As Midwesterners, driving during a winter storm is inevitable. But regardless of how many storms we drive in, it never gets any safer. With many of us traveling all around the country this winter, let’s take a quick lesson on how to safely drive during a winter storm.
Quick Reminder: Before getting on the road, make sure:
- Your windows are snow and ice free.
- All lights are snow and ice free.
- Your windshield wipers are working properly.
- You car has been properly prepared for winter.
Driving In Whiteout Conditions
Nothing leads to white-knuckle driving quite like whiteout conditions. With visibility extremely limited, there are some actions you need to take while searching for an exit with a gas station.
Slow Down [But Not Too Much]
With limited visibility comes limited reaction time. In order to avoid hitting other drivers, slow down to a pace that allows you to properly react. However, it is important to avoid such a slow speed that it actually becomes a hazard to other drivers. Feel out the drivers around you and adapt.
Make Yourself Known
It is extremely important to make yourself as visible as possible. Use all headlights (including fog lights), turn on your hazard lights (if you fall below the speed limit), and always use turn signals when change lanes.
Your ultimate goal is to find an exit and take shelter at a gas station or restaurant. At all costs, avoid pulling over and waiting the storm out. Not only can this lead to you becoming stuck and stranded, but it is also extremely dangerous for passing traffic.
If pulling over becomes a safety necessity, make sure to:
- Pull over an adequate amount
- Turn your hazards on
- Run you engine every hour for 10 minutes at a time
- Periodically clear your exhaust pipe
Driving On Ice And Snow
Whether it’s packed snow or black ice, driving on ice and snow can make even the best drivers lose complete control of their vehicle.
A pretty obvious tip, but often not practiced. Just as for whiteout conditions, slow down to a speed that allows you to effectively react, observe the road ahead of you, and keep a safe distance from vehicles ahead of you.
How To Handle The Dreaded Slide
Just as driving in a winter storm is inevitable, so is hitting a patch of ice and losing control. The biggest problem with drivers losing control is a lack of knowledge of how to react.
When sliding on ice:
- Stay calm
- DO NOT slam on your brakes
- Take your foot off the gas
- Steer your car into the slide, not against it (DO NOT overcorrect)
- Wait for your car to find traction before accelerating
We will all encounter drivers driving far too slow, and some far too fast. Achieving the safest driving environment possible requires attention and adaption. Pay attention to what the majority of drivers are doing and adapt to those behaviors. If the majority of drivers slow down 10 MPH, slow down 10 MPH.
Accidents can easily be avoided by simply following the pack.
Random Winter Driving Facts
- 70,000 – During major snow falls, over 70,000 people are injured annually
- 40% – Speeds on US highways are reduced by 13% during light snowstorms and 40% during heavy snowstorms.
- 225,000 – Snow accounts for 225,000 crashes annually
- 14% – Fatal accidents are 14% more likely on the first snowy day of the season