Avoid Accidents by Preparing for Winter Driving

There are over six million car crashes a year in the United States. Approximately 24% of them are due to inclement weather and related road conditions. 

We all know that ice storms and other winter conditions can cause dangerous hazards for Alabama drivers. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several tips for driving in winter weather and to avoid accidents:

Prepare ahead by maintaining your car.  Check your antifreeze levels, tire tread and car battery before a winter road trip.

During winter months, always keep jumper cables, a shovel, snow scraper and brush, a flashlight with batteries, and road flares or other warning devices in your car. Keep rock salt or extra antifreeze available to melt ice and use abrasive materials such kitty litter or sand for traction. In a pinch, you can always use your floor mats for traction if your tires are stuck in the snow.

For long trips, it is smart to keep extra food and water, a blanket, a cell phone and prescription medicines on hand. Avoid driver fatigue by resting every several hours. Stop and sleep in a warm hotel or motel if you plan on traveling more than a day.

Plan your route carefully and let someone know your exact route and estimated time of arrival. Stick to main roads and highways. Avoid back roads, logging roads or roads that are normally shut to travelers in the winter.

Drive slowly, buckle up, and maintain your distance between vehicles. 

If your car stalls, stay with your vehicle.  Tie a colorful or metallic marker on your antenna or window. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear. Keep your car running only long enough to keep yourself warm. Use your cell phone to call for assistance.

FEMA advises that you practice cold weather driving ahead of time:

  • During daylight, rehearse maneuvers slowly on the ice or snow in an empty lot
  • Steer into a skid
  • Know what your brakes will do: stomp on antilock brakes, pump non-antilock brakes
  • Stopping distances are longer on water-covered ice and ice
  • Don’t idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space

Although it is sometimes best to stay home during a severe snow or ice storm, if you must drive, keep your eyes open and beware of stalled vehicles, pedestrians, deer or wildlife, falling branches or other debris on the road.