Virginia Beach gets its share of winter weather. Winter driving requires not only extra focus on the road, but also on the car itself. Preparing a car for cold, icy, and snowy conditions can decrease the chances of an accident. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers valuable tips for ensuring a winter-ready vehicle. Winter car safety is essential to avoiding a car accident during the colder, snowy months.
Service and Maintenance
Follow the car manufacturer’s recommended service schedules for service and maintenance. If the car is not up to date with maintenance, get the car in for service. Add a deicing agent to the gas tank monthly in the winter; this helps prevent a fuel line freeze-up in cold weather. Keep the gas tank at least half-full at all times as this can also help prevent freeze-ups. Getting an oil change is one of the most neglected car maintenance items, but also one of the most important. Having clean oil and oil filters makes the engine run more efficiently. Dirty filters, such as air, PVC, and fuel filters, can cause sluggish vehicle performance.
Engine and Transmission
It is best to get any existing problems with the engine and transmission checked. Cold weather often makes existing problems worse. Difficulty starting the car, rough idling, squeaky brakes, and stalls are among the problems that need to be taken care of before winter. A transmission is often neglected until there is a serious problem. Getting in front of potential issues, especially in the winter, can help with car safety and peace of mind. It also helps to flush and refill the cooling system. A mix of 50/50 antifreeze and water is optimal to help the radiator and associated parts run smoothly.
Be sure to inspect the tires and treads. Worn treads are a top cause of accidents on snowy, icy, and wet roads. Replace tires if needed or consider snow tires, which help tremendously with traction and maintaining control on winter roads. Cold weather naturally reduces tire pressure, so it is advised to check and fill tires once a month in colder weather. Make sure there is a good spare and jack in the car. It is easy to neglect to look at the spare when it is hidden away. Before winter, make sure both the spare tire and jack are ready to be used, if needed.
Heating and Defrosting Systems
Check the heating and defrosting systems. Both heat and defrosters are used daily in the winter, so ensure they are in good working order for both safety and passenger comfort.
A dead battery is a common problem in cold weather. Make sure the car’s battery is sufficiently charged and able to withstand a cold winter.
Make sure wiper blades are in good working condition. Winter weather often creates wet, icy, and snowy windshields, so both front and back wiper blades should work without streaking, squeaking, or missing areas.
Lights and Bulbs
Check headlights, indicator lights, taillights, and in-car lights to ensure they are working properly. Clean headlights and other exterior lights periodically, and ensure they are free of snow, slush, and other debris.
Exhaust fumes that get into the car can be deadly. Have the exhaust system checked for leaks and look for holes in the car’s floor and trunk that could allow fumes to enter.
How can I Drive Safely in the Winter?
It is easy to forget how to drive safely in winter weather. The following reminders can help increase the chances of an accident-free winter:
- Do not panic in winter weather. Many people become anxious when it begins snowing or when the roads are icy or snow-covered. The best thing to do is to stay calm and focus on driving carefully without overreacting to conditions.
- Account for extra time. Leave early enough to provide extra time for road conditions, slower traffic, and snowplows/salt trucks.
- Remove snow and ice from the car. Make sure headlights and taillights are free from snow and that all windows and windshields are clear.
- Drive slower than normal. Many winter accidents are caused by drivers traveling too fast for weather conditions. Drive under the speed limit when road conditions are bad or if there is reduced visibility.
- Do not accelerate quickly or brake suddenly. Slamming the brakes or revving the engine can cause slides and spinouts. Gently tap the brakes as you come up to a stop sign, red light, or a car in front of you.
- Wear seat belts. This is especially important in winter.
- Turn the cruise control off. In the winter, a driver needs to be in control of the vehicle at all times to react to changing weather or road conditions. Leave cruise control for clear, clean roads.
- Beware of black ice. Called black ice because it is a thin layer of ice that blends into the pavement, it often surprises drivers and can cause a dangerous slide or spin.
What Should I Pack in a Winter-Weather Safety Kit?
Keep a winter safety kit in the car or trunk to help in accidents or when stranded or stuck in winter weather. A good safety kit includes:
- Snow and ice scrapers sturdy enough to handle tough conditions.
- Flashlight with extra batteries and a battery-powered radio.
- Road flares in case of an accident.
- Extra clothing and footwear.
- Blankets for warmth, especially waterproof blankets.
- Water and snacks.
- Deicer spray.
- Snow shovel.
- Sand or cat litter to help provide traction when stuck.
- Rock salt or other ice/snow melter.
- Cell phone charger and charging system.
- Laminated distress sign, neon ribbon, or flag.
- Jumper cables.
- Heavy-duty rope or chain for towing.
- Tool kit.
- First-aid kit.
What Should I Do When Stuck or Stranded in a Snowstorm?
If a car is stuck in a ditch, snowbank, or other location, attempt the following:
- Ensure that the tailpipe is clear from snow, ice, or other debris. If the car is running, a clogged tailpipe could send deadly fumes into the vehicle.
- Use a shovel to clear as much snow as possible from the vehicle’s front and back ends.
- Do not rev the engine. Spinning tires create friction and heat that melt snow but immediately turn it into ice, making it even more difficult to get traction.
- Rock the car back and forth. This is easy if there are other people to help but can also be done alone, just use the drive and reverse functions repeatedly.
If the car is completely stuck and passengers are stranded:
- Call for help immediately.
- Make self and car visible by using distress signs and neon clothing, tape, or flags.
- Walk for help only if at a safe and reasonable distance. Do not risk being exposed to winter weather if a store, gas station, or other shelter is not within easy walking distance.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of debris. If it is, stay in the car and turn it on for warmth as needed. Use all extra clothing and blankets available to keep warm.
- If low on gas, turn the car on for heat sparingly.
- Ration food and water in the emergency kit.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Advocate for Victims of Car Accidents
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident during the winter or any other time of year, contact the Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. To get started, contact us online or call 757-LAW-0000 to schedule a consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.