According the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.”
Follow these tips to avoid a crash in the snow this winter:
Abraham Lincoln and Your Tires
Have you ever heard of the penny test? In addition to being one of the best U.S. Presidents, Abraham Lincoln could save your life when heading out in the snow. The penny test goes like this: Place a penny head in the groves of your tires. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, you should not drive in the snow.
Tread wear will provide less grip and traction in the snow and leave you driving on rubber ice skates. So, instead of heading out in the snow, relax, let the snow melt and head to a tire shop as soon as the roads clear to get a new set of “shoes.” If you have the “tread,” the next step is preparing for the worst case scenario.
Be Ready for a Breakdown in the Snow
The Boys Scouts have been chanting this mantra for years; “BE PREPARED.” That means, before you leave the house, make sure you have the tools you may need if you break down in the snow. Check these items off your life before you head out in the snow and ice:
- Fill the windshield washer fluid – salt spray, snow and ice can reduce viability on your front windshield. If you can’t see, then you cannot drive. So make sure you have plenty of the “blue stuff” in your reservoir. You may need to wait for the car to warm up so the washer fluid thaws. Most repair shops will save a penny by “watering down” the fluid they provide to customers. Traditional washer fluid is supposed to remain liquid, but with the water mixed in, you may have a frozen block under the hood.
- Clear Snow from Your Car – Start with a clean slate, get that snow and ice off the windshields before you head out the driveway. At least start the drive with an advantage.
- Turn on Your lights – If you don’t have your lights on, then other drivers cannot see you in thick snow fall. If they can’t see you, then they may run into you.
- Keep you low beams on – Don’t turn on those high beams (it blinds other drivers) and the increased light will bounce off the snow and make it harder to see.
- Keep Tools in the Car – If you’ve ever had to change a tire under normal conditions, you know how hard it can be. Just imagine your lug nuts are frozen or covers in ice. Keep a wrench and hammer in the car to knock that ice off and loosen any “tough to turn” bolts if you have to change a tire. You may also want to include a shovel, it can get you out of some snow spots if you get stuck.
Keep It Level
Slopes and hills are a driver’s worst enemy in the snow and ice. Momentum will generally carry a car over a rough patch of snow or ice. But if you stop on a hill or slope, then you are going to need to get the car moving again. This can prove difficult and sometimes impossible. Cars that are not equipped with all wheel driver or four wheel drive may slip and slide down a hire or into a ditch (or ravine). Keep your car on level ground and moving when you aren’t on driving on flat ground.
“I’ve Fallen (Stuck) and I Can’t Get Up (Out)”
You’re car is stuck in the snow, now what? Getting stuck in the snow can be bad news for the rest of your day, often leading to abandoning the vehicle until the snow melts or a tow truck rescues your vehicle. There is a way to get your car unstuck, but it may take a little trial and error and luck. Start by rocking the car back and forth. Don’t “hit the gas” as this will only make the tires spin. Slowly apply the gas and try to get some momentum to move the car forward or backward until you get a grip. If this doesn’t work, then you may have to dig out some snow in front and behind the tires. If this still does not work or you left the shovel in your garage, then use your floor mat to create traction.
Easy on the Brake
Braking too hard can make it work. If you apply the brake too hard or too fast then your car may begin to spin or slide and you don’t want to panic. Take your foot off the brake and allow the transmission to slow the vehicle. As long as you aren’t giving the car gas, it will slow on it’s own. The transmission will slow the car, but not stop it. Take you foot off the brake, don’t give it any gas and regain control of the vehicle.
Black Ice Matters
Black ice is real and you may not even see it. Some people call it “clear ice” but whatever is is called, it is nasty. There is nothing out there to prevent you from sliding on black ice, unless you have diamond tip tires or metal treads. The rubber on your tires hits the black ice and you just have to hope there isn’t much of it. You cannot stop on black ice, the best advice is to remove your foot from the gas, don’t hit the brakes and let the car pass over the black ice and return to either snow or the road to regain traction.
Why Should I Follows These Tips?
Attorney Randolph Rice is a Maryland car accident lawyer and has represented clients injured in snow car accidents. Some of the most common accidents he sees is cars that don’t stop in time and rear-end the car in front of them. Slow down in the snow, it may take longer to stop.