The National Safety Council reports that fatal car accidents are “14 percent more likely to occur on the first snowy day of the season.” This is because drivers need to re-acclimate themselves to winter driving from the year before. But making it past the first snowy day does not truly mean your risk for an accident has decreased. It is important to exercise proper caution throughout the winter months.
What to do on icy roads
Drivers must adopt a unique approach to driving when the roads are icy. A good rule of thumb is to decrease speed to about 50 percent of your normal speed. Driving too fast on ice will result in loss of control. However, it is also important to not drive too slowly because your car requires some momentum to stay in motion on a slippery surface.
Pressing the brakes too hard can result in skidding. If your wheels lock up, gently apply the brakes, never slamming them. Also, know if you have anti-lock brakes on your car and read your owners manual about how to utilize anti-lock brakes. Generally you will not want to “pump” your brakes if you have anti-lock brakes.
Turn your headlights on, even during the day. And keep your headlights and taillights clean by using a snow brush or ice scraper.
What to do when skidding
Skidding is the bane of drivers on icy roads. The best way to remedy skidding is to prevent it. Do not speed, and increase the normal distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. You must be extra cautious on slippery roads.
A common mistake people make when skidding on an icy surface is to slam on the brakes. Doing this can exacerbate the situation. For even more in-depth information on how to recover from skidding, see PennDOT’s Driving Manual.
What to do when stuck in the snow
Avoid pressing the accelerator too much as this can cause your car to sink deeper into the snow.
Turn your steering wheel to the left and right a few times to clear some of the snow from around your tires.
Keep a shovel in your trunk or backseat so you can dig your car out.
Once you’ve done all of this, gently touch the accelerator to ease out of the snow.
Remember, if the roads are in bad shape, the best thing you can do is to not drive. Of course, sometimes you don’t have a choice. In that case, be prepared, and be patient. For more information, please see the article “Prepare Your Car for Winter Weather” on the Carpey Law website.
You should also request a free copy of Purchasing Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania, an insurance guide written by Stuart A. Carpey.