Avoiding cold weather accidents is a crucial aspect of driving during winter months. It’s generally wise to start preparing your car for cold weather well in advance. Traffic collisions are more likely to happen when it gets cold. Ice and snow cause roads to be more treacherous, making it harder to control your vehicle while driving. Use these tips to help avoid winter motor vehicle accidents, the resulting damage, and potential injury.
- Keep your car maintained – Regular maintenance from experienced mechanics will prepare your car for seasonal changes. Start getting your car ready for the cold months before it starts snowing. Take it to a mechanic to check that important systems are working properly (e.g. windshield wipers, heater and defroster). Keeping the car maintained can help you mitigate damage, or avoid it altogether.
- Check tires – Check that your tires have enough air in them. Tire pressure tends to decrease in colder temperatures, adversely affecting your driving performance. Low pressure puts strain on the tires, which can lead to overheating and blowouts. Preferably, install snow tires to give the car better traction on slippery roads. These tires can grip snowy, icy roads more easily, making it easier for you to handle the vehicle when driving.
- Install chains – Alternatively, install chains on the tires to give them a better grip on the road surface. Chains also increase the weight of your tires, giving the car increased stability when driving in slippery areas. Adding chains to your car is an added help if you have to drive through places that aren’t regularly salted and plowed.
- Check weather reports – Always check weather reports and road conditions before heading out, especially if you’re travelling long distances. Plan your route based on the weather and consider alternate routes to avoid the worst conditions. When temperatures get low, expect to encounter ice on the roads and prepare accordingly. Consider cancelling your trip if bad weather is predicted. If you really must go, inform others of your route, destination and ETA.
- Keep the tank full – Always keep your fuel tank completely (or at least partially) full in case of emergencies. In case of deviations from your route, this ensures that you have enough gas to make it to your destination. Keeping the tank at least partially full helps prevent the gas line from freezing. Water vapour in the fuel lines can freeze and block fuel from reaching the engine.
- Maximize visibility – Ice and snow can accumulate on the windshield and windows. Clear off any buildup to improve your visibility. Avoid “peephole driving” through a small cleared spot on the windshield; this doesn’t provide enough visibility to see if something is in front of the car. Clear away any snow on the car’s roof and rear as well. This snow can obstruct drivers behind you if it blows off.
- Use your headlights – During the colder months it can get too dark to see, even during the daylight hours. Keep headlights on to aid visibility when the sky is overcast, and the snow limits what you can see. Better visibility enables you to react quickly to potential danger. Turning on your headlights also makes it easier for other drivers and pedestrians to see your car and keep their distance.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly – Avoid abrupt movements when driving, in order to prevent skidding. That also includes jerking on the wheel and making sudden moves. Use slow, easy movements to minimize skidding. When accelerating, apply gentle, even pressure on the pedal to avoid making the wheels spin. Also use gentle pressure when braking. Take your foot off the pedal and slow down gradually to avoid losing control. Use the brakes to gradually come to a stop. These movements take longer to accomplish when the roads are icy. Drive slowly to give yourself more time to maneuver safely.
- Avoid using cruise control – Refrain from using cruise control when the roads get slippery. Cruise control regulates your car’s speed, which makes it harder for you to react to changing conditions. Skidding with cruise control on can lead to uncontrolled acceleration. Make a conscious effort to turn off the cruise control when it’s snowy to avoid accelerating on the ice and then skidding.
- Keep your distance – Keep a healthy distance away from other cars on the road, both in front and behind. Driving on snow and ice requires more space to move and stop. Maintain a fair amount of distance from other vehicles so you can maneuver without risking an accident. Use the six-second rule as a guideline to how much distance you should keep away from other drivers. If a car is tailgating closely behind you, change lanes to avoid a collission.
- Always obey the speed limit – During the colder months snow, rain and fog can make it more hazardous to drive at high speeds. Stick to the speed limit to keep control of the car even when the roads get slippery. Ideally, slow your speed well below the posted limit. Wet roads and low visibility can make it harder to drive without losing control. Drive slowly to give yourself more time to react if you see anything on the road. To adjust to the reduced driving speed, allow more time to get to your destination.
- Avoid distractions – It’s always important to keep focused when driving, more so when it’s cold and snowing. Refrain from activities that can distract you at a critical moment (e.g. eating, texting, adjusting the radio or talking). Give the road your full attention and avoid letting your hands and eyes wander. For best results, keep both hands on the wheel at all times to better control the car, especially if you have to react to an unexpected event.
- Avoid driving when tired – Driving when sleepy is a factor in many accidents. Lack of sleep can slow your reactions on the road and make it harder to drive safely. Poor weather can affect visibility, making accidents more likely to happen. Make sure you get adequate rest before driving, especially when going on a long trip. Refrain from turning the heat up too high. Staying toasty helps keep a driver and passengers comfortable, but too much heat can make you drowsy and impair reaction time. Once you’ve beaten the chill, keep the temperature around 22 degrees to keep alert.
Keep these tips in mind as cold weather approaches and avoid accidents. Problems on the road are worsened if you are caught far from help. Always prepare before getting behind the wheel, and stay vigilant when driving. If you are involved in a wintertime collision, contact a personal injury lawyer to represent you and help get a fair settlement.
If you are in a winter accident, Michelle Linka Law has the experience to get you and your family the financial support you deserve. We provide personal injury lawyers in Vaughan, Whitby, Newmarket and other locations in the Greater Toronto Area. We are a small firm dedicated to getting to know each of our clients personally and providing equal time and attention. We are dedicated to fighting for your rights and getting you compensation. Contact us at (416) 477-7288 for a free consultation and more detailed information.