Winter is easily the most dangerous time of the year to drive throughout much of the United States. In some parts of the Midwest, storms can come in with little warning and completely shut down a highway, while northeastern states can see black-ice risks for weeks at a time. The Weather Channel, a national forecast provider, states that about 1.2 million car accidents are caused by weather each year. The organization notes severe winter storms that hinder visibility, ice and slick roads are among the greatest threats.
Let's discuss how you can better protect your family, your vehicle and yourself from the risks that winter driving presents.
The Western Slope Driving Institute, an automotive education organization, explains that black ice is extremely dangerous because it is nearly impossible to see. By knowing how to anticipate black ice and what to do when the car encounters it, though, drivers can remain safe. First and foremost, drivers need to be aware that shaded areas of the road, as well as all parts of highways late at night during winter, will be more prone to black ice.
Every vehicle is prone to losing control when encountering black ice. The type of automobile, tires or brakes you have do not make much of a difference. To help you stay safe on icy roads, what will make a difference is knowing what to look for and how to react.
If you encounter black ice, do not hit the brakes as this can cause an immediate spin, notes the Western Slope Driving Institute. Instead, slow down by taking your foot off of the gas. Downshift if you have a standard vehicle. Always keep the steering wheel pointed straight ahead. Try to identify areas that have more traction, such as spots of the road with sand or road salt.
There are some preparations you can make to prevent other threats presented by major winter storms. The National Weather Service (NWS), a government agency providing weather education and forecasts, suggests keeping tires at the recommended level of inflation, check fluid levels more frequently and get wipers replaced as soon as they show signs of wear.
NWS also recommends keeping the door, gas tank and trunk hinges adequately lubricated so they do not freeze up in extreme cold temperatures. In the event of an emergency that leaves you and your family stranded, you will also want to keep a survival kit in your car. The weather service urges drivers to keep flashlights, blankets, extra clothing, water, a shovel, a bag of sand and a windshield scraper/brush on hand whenever driving in the wintertime.
Be safe on the roads this winter!