Winter has arrived and if you have not already done so, now is the perfect time to make sure that your vehicle is prepared for the cold weather. The increased traffic around the holidays and the possibility of snow or ice can significantly increase the risk of a serious car accident.
Keeping your vehicle well-maintained is one of the most important steps you can do to ensure that you and the other passenger in the vehicle remain safe, even when road conditions become hazardous.
There are numerous ways you ensure that your vehicle is prepared for the winter months. Some of these steps take time and money, so it is important to address these issues before the cold weather is here to stay. The following are some of the top recommendations for preparing your car for the winter.
Check Your Tires
During the coldest months, it is recommended that you check your tire pressure on a weekly basis, and add air to the tires as needed. You can check the tire’s tread by using the “penny test,” which involves placing a penny in the tread groove of the tire with Lincoln’s head facing you. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, it is time to replace the tire.
You should also plan to rotate your tires before the winter, or you can switch to winter tires if you live in an area that gets a significant amount of snow.
Get a Maintenance Checkup
Bring your car to your local mechanic before the winter season starts. They will check the battery, brakes, cooling and heating systems, lights and fuses, electrical systems, and ensure that all of the belts and hoses are in good shape.
Replace the Wiper Blades
These should be replaced regularly. You should also consider buying winter blades, which are more effective at clearing away heavy ice and snow.
Check the Windshield Wiper Fluid
If you are running low, fill the reservoir, and make sure that you have extra fluid in the vehicle at all times.
Check the Vehicle’s Lights
Make sure that your headlights, taillights, and brake lights are working properly. In addition to helping you see the road and other motorists in the vicinity, you will be more visible to other cars and trucks on the road.
Keep a Set of Jumper Cables in the Car
If your car breaks down and your battery dies, having a set of jumper cables on hand will allow you to charge the battery if another vehicle is able to stop and give you a jump.
Keep Your Gas Tank Half Full
This will help prevent moisture from forming in the gas lines, causing them to freeze. Having plenty of gas in your tank also means that you will be able to keep the car running if you get stuck in a winter storm.
Have an Emergency Kit in the Car
This will help keep you safe and warm until help arrives. An emergency kit should include the following items:
- Extra warm blankets.
- Change of clothing.
- Warm socks.
- Jumper cables.
- Flashlight with extra batteries.
- Extra cellphone charger.
- Ice scraper.
- Bags, sand, or kitty litter.
- Jumper cables.
- Bottled water.
- Non-perishable food items.
- Emergency flares.
- Extra medications.
What Are Common Winter Driving Hazards?
Inclement weather conditions are certainly at the top of the list when it comes to winter driving hazards. When roads are covered in ice, snow, or freezing rain, the driving conditions become extremely treacherous.
Black ice is particularly dangerous because the thin layer of ice is hard to see at night, which means that it often goes unnoticed until you hit a patch of ice and lose control of your vehicle. In addition to icy or snowy road conditions, the following are additional examples of some of the common hazards associated with winter driving:
- Limited visibility: If you do not thoroughly wipe away the ice, snow, and other debris from your front and rear windshield and the windows, it will be difficult to see. In addition, if the vehicle’s defroster is not working properly, it will not clear away from condensation on the inside of the windshield. Heavy snow and rain also cause visibility issues. When other cars and trucks drive by, they can kick up snow and rain onto your windshield as well.
- Poor tire conditions: The cold weather causes the moisture in the air inside the tires to constrict, which reduces the air pressure in the tires. When the tires are not properly inflated, the treads become worn. When roadways are covered in ice or snow, driving with worn tire treads can be very dangerous.
- Battery failure: The colder weather causes your car battery to lose its charge more quickly. The last thing you want to happen is to get stranded in a snowstorm and your battery dies. Consider replacing the battery, or at least have it checked by a mechanic to ensure that it is fully charged.
- Salt on the road: While this is usually thought of as a way to remove ice and snow from the roads, salt is very corrosive and can damage the exterior and undercarriage of your car, particularly if it accumulates and is not cleaned off.
What Driving Tips Should I Keep in Mind When Driving in the Winter?
In addition to making sure that your vehicle is in good condition, there are some other important driving tips:
- Give yourself extra travel time. When the snow is falling or the forecast calls for inclement weather, you should avoid travel if at all possible. However, if you cannot avoid driving, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. In addition to the weather, you may face increased traffic, snow plows, salt sprayers, unplowed roads, and road closures. It may take you longer to get to where you are going, but your safety is more important than arriving at a certain time.
- Slow down. You are always expected to follow the posted speed limit, but when the weather is causing hazardous driving conditions, it is recommended that you drive at least 10 miles per hour below the speed limit. This will allow you to slow down safely. In addition, you will have more time to react to other motorists in the vicinity.
- Avoid using cruise control. Driving during inclement weather requires you to actively focus all of your attention on the road. If you use the cruise control, you may hit a patch of black ice or a pothole that is covered by snow, which can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
- Always wear your seat belt. Wearing a seat belt will not prevent an accident, but it will protect you if you are involved in a weather-related collision.
What Should I Do if My Car Breaks Down in a Blizzard?
It is important that you do not panic. Keep the following tips in mind if you are stranded during a snowstorm:
- Call 911 immediately. Some cellphones will turn off when exposed to extremely cold temperatures, so make sure that you call 911 right away.
- Clear snow away from the tailpipe. If snow is covering the tailpipe and the car is running, carbon monoxide can accumulate in the vehicle and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Make your vehicle visible. In order to make your vehicle visible to emergency responders, tie a brightly colored ribbon or piece of fabric to the car’s antenna. If you have emergency flashers, set them up around your vehicle.
- Run the car intermittently. If you keep the car running for a long period of time, you could run out of gas. Only turn the car on long enough to heat the inside of the car, then turn it off.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Assist Motorists With Weather-Related Car Accident Claims
If you are injured in a collision this winter, do not hesitate to contact our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout 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.