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Winter Weather Can Mean More Accidents

As winter descends upon most of the United States, driving conditions change for the worse, creating more opportunity for accidents. Driving a car can be a dangerous activity at any time of the year, but the severe weather patterns unique to the winter months make driving during this time of year especially challenging. Drivers in northern states have the worst of it, with icy conditions creeping in sometimes as early as October and often hanging around until May. But winter weather can be found anywhere in the country, and all drivers should be aware of the dangers and prepared to adjust their driving habits in accordance with the increased dangers of navigating a vehicle in wintry weather.

How Winter Weather Leads to More Car Accidents

Winter weather can be severe and unforgiving. Snow can pile up on top of sleet and freezing rain, creating slippery surfaces that lead to treacherous commutes. Particularly in the morning and evening rush hours, when traffic is heavy and the sun is largely absent, the roads can ice up very quickly and become nearly impossible to navigate. Adding to the danger is heavy traffic patterns at rush hour, which mean each driver has to look out for other motorists having trouble coping with driving conditions or operating their vehicles in unsafe ways.

Wintry weather conditions can come quickly, making previously clear roads hard to navigate even for seasoned winter drivers. Plow and salt trucks often have a hard time keeping up with changing conditions; since they normally have to concentrate on main roads, driving on back roads during your morning or evening commute can be particularly dangerous. Always allow extra time to get to and fro when you are driving in the winter. One of the reasons accidents occur at a greater frequency during the winter months is that many drivers do not allow extra time to get where they need to go, in spite of the danger. We lead such busy lives that it is easy to lose sight of the importance of thinking ahead and allowing extra time for our commutes. But this sort of planning can mean the difference between getting to work safely and ending up off the road in a ditch, or worse.

Think Ahead to Help Your Car Perform in Inclement Weather Conditions

To a certain extent, the increased dangers associated with winter driving are things we have no control over. Still, there are many things you can do as a winter driver to reduce the risk of a car accident and help ensure that you get safely to your destination. One easy way to help better prepare yourself for your drive is to take the time to make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip. Like allowing extra time for the drive, this step is sometimes overlooked in the day-to-day rush of our lives, but it is nonetheless very critical.

During the winter months, one common sight is the vehicles which obviously were not cleared of snow and ice before the driver got in and set out on the roads. This is a dangerous practice, because it greatly limits your visibility and your car's ability to properly perform in the winter weather conditions. Take the time to start your car at least ten to fifteen minutes before you have to leave and allow the engine to warm up. The car will perform better in the cold weather, and much of the work involved in snow and ice clearing from the mirrors and windows can usually be done by the car itself. Once you are ready to leave, you can brush off any remaining snow and ice more quickly, since the inside of the vehicle will be much warmer, promoting the melting of the ice and snow and making your job physically that much easier.

In addition to making sure your vehicle is properly warmed up and free of snow and ice on the windows and mirrors, you should also keep up with a few other basic maintenance items to help the car run better and make operating it easier on you. Every time you get gas, check your tire pressure and adjust it as needed to make sure you are not riding on flat tires. The cold winter climate tends to rob tires of their pressure, and failing to keep your tires inflated to their proper pressure can greatly increase the risk of getting a flat and having to change a tire. It is bad enough to change a flat in good weather, but doing it in the middle of a snowstorm is something you should avoid if at all possible. With this in mind, also keep an eye on the tread of your tires, and make sure they are in proper working order to keep you safe out on the road. Winter is not the time to try and stretch out an old set of tires for the purpose of saving a little money. When you do so, the end result may be an accident which causes damage costing you much more money than a set of tires would have.

Another very simple, but often ignored maintenance issue you should keep up with especially during the winter months is the condition of your windshield wipers and the level of your wiper fluid. Check your wiper fluid every time you get gas. While the pump is filling up your tank, you can do a quick rundown of key items like your fluid level and the condition of your tires, so this kind of troubleshooting really doesn't cost you any time. Replace your wiper blades if they do not keep your windshield clear. Lack of visibility is a huge factor in winter car accidents, so stay on top of this simple maintenance item and keep your car as safe as it can be for winter driving. While you are under the hood, check your oil and other fluid levels, and the condition of your belts. You may catch a maintenance issue that can help prevent your getting stranded out in the cold. If you are not comfortable enough with your own knowledge of basic auto maintenance to do this kind of troubleshooting, do not hesitate to ask a friend or family member to do it for you. Many winter driving issues are completely preventable just from taking the time to keep cars running smoothly and safely.

Drive Safely to Survive Winter Weather

Most of all, to prevent winter driving problems, operate your vehicle in a way that's consistent with winter driving safety standards. Slow down when road conditions are less than ideal. Increase your following distance to give yourself extra time to react if a vehicle ahead of you runs into a problem or loses control. Signal lane changes ahead of time when you are driving in traffic on the highway, so that other cars can more safely react. Above all else, use common sense to minimize your risk of encountering a situation like a car accident or other weather-related auto trouble. Operate under the assumption that every trip will take longer, and have the patience needed to survive winter weather driving.

 

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