Driving in harsh winter weather is never easy. Just look at the massive multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 91 in Connecticut over the weekend which shut down portions of the highway for over five hours. The pile-up of more than 20 cars, a tanker truck and three tractor-trailers sent 30 people to the hospital. While an accident involving so many vehicles is rare, there are still plenty of steps drivers can take to avoid an accident and keep themselves safe this winter.
Before getting behind the wheel, it is important to make sure your car is ready for the winter. Being stranded on the side of the road due to a flat tire or dead battery can be dangerous for both you and other drivers. Make sure your car’s battery is fully charged and there is no corrosion on the charging ports. Inspect belts and hoses for cracks and dryness, as the cold temperatures could cause them to rip. Check that the vehicle’s breaks are in good working condition before using them on slippery roads.
Tires play a major role in being able to navigate on snow and ice-covered pavement. Since cold weather can cause the rubber on tires to contract, it can leave them underinflated. Try to check the tire pressure a few times a month. If there is not enough tread, the tires will be less likely to grip the road, leaving the car vulnerable to an accident from skidding and sliding.
Visibility is also key, so front and rear defrosters must be working properly, as well as headlights and brake lights. Windshield wipers should be able to clearly wipe away precipitation, and windshield wiper fluid should be topped off frequently. Try to have more than a half tank of gas at all times in case you get stuck in traffic or stranded. It is also good to keep emergency supplies in the car such as blankets, flashlights, road flares, a shovel, an ice scraper, non-perishable food, and a cell phone charger. Clean snow off the entire vehicle including windows, mirrors, lights and especially the roof. Failure to do so in some places is now illegal, as snow flying off the top of a car can seriously impact the visibility of the driver behind you and could cause an accident.
Once on the road, stick to lanes already plowed or sanded, and remember covered roadways along with overpasses and underpasses will freeze more easily. Keep your speed down and leave plenty of room to be able to stop. It can take two to three times longer for your vehicle to stop on slippery roads. In case the car begins to slide or skid, stay calm and do not slam on the breaks. Carefully take your foot off the gas and turn the wheel towards the direction you want the car to go. If you do need to apply the brakes, remember that anti-lock brakes require full pressure and non-anti-lock brakes need to be pumped. Stay away from cruise control and do not develop a false sense of security because your car has 4-wheel drive (which has no effect on your ability to break).
Unfortunately, even if you take all the necessary precautions to avoid an accident during wintery conditions, others may not do the same. If you or a family member has been injured in a motor vehicle accident as the result of the reckless actions of another driver in dangerous driving conditions, call the skilled and experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., today.