There are countless dangers drivers could find themselves facing with the onset of New England’s winter weather. Cautious driving is always important, and even more so during the freezing months. Nobody wants to be involved in a car accident, particularly in severe weather conditions such as ice and snow.
People who have lived in the Northeast during winter months are probably quite familiar with having to drive on slick surfaces. Hazards for winter travelers in New England go far beyond the wind, rain, snow and ice. Poor visibility, low tire pressure, low anti-freeze, battery failure, salt and cold temperatures are only a few of the additional dangers capable of causing breakdowns, crashes or worse.
How to Keep Safe While Driving on New England Roads in Winter
If you are planning to brave the elements this winter, keep the following tips for safe winter driving in mind:
- Inspect and service your car before winter weather hits.
Get the oil changed, fluids topped off, tires rotated, tire pressure checked and brought up to recommended specifications (cold temperatures make tires lose pressure), bald tires replaced, brakes checked and battery life analyzed. Doing this can dramatically reduce the chances of a vehicle breakdown at a most inopportune time.
- Leave sufficient space between your vehicle and the traffic ahead.
Staying at least three seconds behind the vehicle in front of you is recommended when driving in warm weather under good conditions. Ice and snow make for very slippery roadways. In winter weather, you should significantly increase your following distance to allow time to react without skidding or sliding into stopped traffic.
- Keep your attention on the road at all times.
It is important to be able to anticipate potential dangers that may require slowing or stopping. Rapid acceleration, abrupt braking and sharp turns on slippery surfaces should be avoided whenever possible. If your vehicle begins to skid, you should steer in the direction you want the car to go.
- Plan your route carefully before you leave.
Plan your route and alternative routes prior to setting out. Stick to main roads in winter weather. They are more likely to have been plowed and in better condition. Leave early to give yourself plenty of time to arrive.
- Don’t use cruise control, but do use your lights.
The cruise control feature on your vehicle should be left off when driving in winter conditions. Cruise control could lead to lost traction if you hit a slippery patch. However, you should turn your lights on, even during the day. This will help other motorists see your car through the snow and spray. Keep lights clean and clear of snow and ice.
- Keep emergency supplies in your vehicle.
Be prepared with emergency supplies, regardless of whether you are making short trips around town or traveling longer distances. Jumper cables, flashlights, flares, an ice scraper and snow brush, blankets, an abrasive material (such as sand or kitty litter) for traction, a first-aid kit and other supplies are needed in case of an emergency. Food, necessary medications and a cell phone charger are all critical items to carry in winter weather.
- Keep your gas tank full.
When your gas goes down to a half tank, refill. This can help prevent the vehicle’s fuel lines from freezing and can stop condensation from watering down the gas. It can also ensure that you to have enough gas to keep the vehicle warm should you get stuck in snow. There are also antifreezes and water-removers that can be used to prevent fuel freeze-ups.
- Stay alert while driving at all times.
Never drink and drive. Do not text or talk on the cell phone while driving in dangerous winter weather conditions. You must focus your full attention on the task of driving. Get sufficient sleep so you are well-rested and less likely to feel tired while behind the wheel. Driving in snow or on ice-covered roads requires a driver’s full, undivided attention.
- Stay with your vehicle if you are in an accident or have a breakdown.
If your vehicle gets stuck, becomes disabled or is involved in an accident, stay inside the vehicle while awaiting help. Standing outside in very cold weather can make your body temperature drop, leading to serious health risks such as hypothermia and frostbite. Use blankets to bundle up and stay warm. If you run your vehicle’s engine, open the windows at least a crack to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and clear the area around the exhaust pipe. If it gets plugged with snow, the results can be deadly.
What to Do If You Are Involved in a Winter Car Accident
Even if you do everything right while driving this winter, you could still be involved in an accident caused by a driver who failed to take proper precautions.
If you are the victim of a wintertime crash caused by someone else’s negligence, you will likely face medical bills, lost wages and other losses that could potentially be recovered through an auto accident lawsuit.
The Rhode Island personal injury attorneys at Marasco & Nesselbush provide free case reviews to motor vehicle accident victims and their families. Call us at 855-801-6262 or fill out a contact form to set up a free legal consultation. We have four offices located in Providence, Wakefield, Warwick, and Woonsocket to easily serve you.
- National Traffic Safety Institute – Winter Driving Safety Tips
- ABC6 WLNE-TV Providence – Fall Car Care Month Checklist: Winter is on the Way