How Should Motorists Prepare for Winter Driving?

Winter Driving

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), nearly one-quarter of weather-related motor vehicle accidents happen on slushy, snowy, or icy roads, and 15 percent of car wrecks happen during sleet or snowfall. 

Considering that nearly 70 percent of the nation’s population reside in areas that see snow in the colder months, it is clear that winter driving is a topic worth exploring. This discussion explains learn how to prepare your vehicle for winter, along with tips for navigating snow-covered roads this season. 

How to Winterize Your Vehicle: Cold Weather Safety Checklist  

There are three components of safe winter driving: making sure your car or truck is ready to withstand frigid temperatures and precipitation, adjusting your driving style for bad weather, and being prepared for an emergency. 

It is important to winterize your vehicle. Here are some suggestions for keeping your car safe and running smoothly during the frigid days of winter: 

Keep tires properly inflated. There is a common misconception that tires should be underinflated in the winter. The theory is that by releasing some air, the tires will droop, allowing more surface area to make contact with the road for increased traction. 

However, a vehicle with underinflated tires is actually more difficult to control, not ideal if you are traveling on an icy highway. During the colder months, check and inflate your tires more often, filing them to the pressure level recommended by the manufacturer. 

Fill or change fluids. The change is seasons is the ideal time to fill or replace your vehicle’s fluids, including gas, oil, brake and transmission fluids, and antifreeze. Try to keep your fuel tank at least three-quarters full for winter driving. You do not want to run out of gas in below-freezing temperatures. 

Changing your oil and antifreeze is part of the regular maintenance that keeps your car running efficiently and safely. It is never wise to skip tune-ups, especially if winter is approaching. 

Check the battery. Cold temperatures slow everything down in your vehicle, including the chemical reaction that occurs inside the battery. At 32⁰ F, a car battery’s strength is reduced by as much as 35 percent. In addition, it loses even more charge as temperatures drop lower. Check your battery’s charge and make sure all connections are snug and clean. 

Replace broken or burned-out lights. If you have ever driven in a blizzard, you know how challenging it can be to see the road, signs, signals, and other vehicles. Also, the more snow that falls, the less distance you can see around your vehicle. In addition, blizzard conditions affect a driver’s depth perception and depth of field. 

That is why it is so important to check your lights for cracked or dull bulbs and replace them as needed. Not only will bright lights better illuminate the road ahead, but also they will make you more visible to other drivers and pedestrians. 

Check windshield wiper blades. Another component of good visibility is having windshield wiper blades in good condition, which is essential for winter driving. Blades should be replaced every six to 12 months, but always make it a point to inspect them before the winter. 

Clicking, dragging, or uneven water removal are all signs that wipers are not ready for the snow. Replace bent or broken frames along with blades that have warped, cracked, or are missing rubber. 

Inspect the brakes. Wintry weather and treacherous roads cause a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle’s braking system. As you might imagine, it is much harder to slow down and stop on icy roads. Like all the other parts and systems in your car, your brakes are working overtime to do their job in the cold.  Schedule a brake inspection and brake pad replacement with a trusted mechanic as soon as the weather starts to cool. 

Keep a winter emergency kit in the vehicle. Even when you take every precaution to ensure your car is running its best this winter, the risk of a car wreck is ever-present. A breakdown or accident in freezing temperatures can go from inconvenient to dangerous very quickly. 

Drivers are advised to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times, but the supplies inside change slightly when the temperature begins to drop. 

Here is a checklist of items to keep in your vehicle emergency kit this winter:  

  • Basic toolkit 
  • Extra hats, gloves, and scarves 
  • Extra wiper fluid and antifreeze
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Flares 
  • Fresh water 
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Kitty litter for traction
  • Matches 
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Portable phone charger 
  • Small folding shovel 
  • Warm blankets 

Because that first snowfall of the season can come on unexpectedly, it is a good idea to prepare your vehicle for winter in mid-fall. If your vehicle is not ready for winter weather, you may end up stranded or in a serious accident. 

Tips for Safe Winter Driving 

Once your vehicle is winterized, it is important to review a few safe driving tips for snow and ice. Changing your approach to driving in severe winter weather can help reduce your chance of an accident and prevent painful personal injury and costly auto damage. 

Slow down. If you must drive in heavy snow or sleet, reduce your speed. Slowing down will help you control your vehicle more effectively and give you more time to react if there is a problem. 

Add to your following distance. In the snow, allow at least three car lengths between you and the vehicle ahead of you. You want enough time and space to stop if the driver ahead spins or stalls out. 

Use your headlights at all times. Even if you are driving during the day, always use your lights in rain, snow, and sleet. It makes you easier to see and helps you see around your vehicle. 

Clean off the vehicle before driving. Give yourself a few extra minutes on hectic winter mornings to clean off and de-ice your vehicle. Snow and ice interfere with the driver’s ability to see the road. As a vehicle picks up speed, chunks of heavy snow become airborne and seriously injure other drivers. 

In fact, in some states, motorists who fail to remove all snow and ice from their vehicles may be cited and fined by law enforcement. In Maryland,  Transportation Code §21-1104 prohibits driving if the vehicle obstructs the driver’s view of the front or sides of the vehicle. A snow-covered windshield or mirrors could certainly be considered obstructions. 

Never use cruise control in bad weather. It is dangerous to use cruise control in any type of inclement weather, including snow and ice. A vehicle that loses traction and hydroplanes with cruise control engaged can actually accelerate and spin its wheels as it attempts to maintain a continuous speed. 

It is hoped these tips for winterizing your vehicle and driving safely in challenging conditions will help you and your loved ones stay safe this winter. If you are involved in a weather-related car accident, contact a trusted lawyer for guidance. 

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Clients Injured in Winter Car Accidents 

There is a reason many drivers feel anxious about driving in the snow and other winter weather. It comes with significant risk to people and property. If you have been injured in a winter car accident that was not your fault, the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help. We will build a compelling case one detail at a time to help you achieve a good outcome for your claim. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.