Winter storms are an insurance adjuster’s nightmare and a body shop owner’s dream, thanks to the increase in winter car accidents. Here are six top causes of winter car accidents, and what you can do to protect yourself from the personal and financial harm they can cause.
Driving on snow and ice is much different than driving on dry roads. For those of us who live in snow country, whenever the first snow falls each winter, we need to remind ourselves how to drive safely in winter weather conditions and prevent an accident.
6 Top Causes of Winter Car Accidents
1. Bald or Under-inflated Tires
An auto insurance adjuster in my community says that defective tires (tires that are bald or under-inflated) account for 60-80% of winter driving accidents. Of course, it’s not just the tires. It’s how well they perform when snow and ice cover the roadways.
2. Icy Road Conditions
Winter driving can be hazardous because of snow, ice, sleet, or freezing rain build-up on roadways which making it more difficult to stay in control your vehicle, especially when turning, braking, and stopping.
3. Poor Visibility
Snowshowers, blowing and drifting snow, and fog can cause poor visibility at times, making it difficult for drivers to see the roadway and other drivers. But snow and ice build-up on our windshield and windows can cause poor visibility as well.
4. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving – like driving while talking on the phone, texting, putting on make-up, shaving, or eating, can cause accidents any time of the year. But the problem is magnified in winter because of how easy it is to lose control when driving in wet, snowy, or icy conditions. Distracted driving is a serious problem.
5. Excessive Speed
People who drive too fast for winter road conditions or recklessly of the condition, can cause serious harm to themselves or others. The faster you go, and the more wet, snowy or icy the roads are, the the more distance you’ll need in order to stop. Which brings me to the issue of…
Tailgating, or keeping an unsafe distance between you and the driver ahead of you, is dangerous no matter the weather. But the problem is magnified in winter because of all the other factors like icy roads, poor visibility, and bald tires.
4 Winter Driving Tips to Help Prevent Accidents
1. Use extra caution when driving on snow and ice
Snow and ice on roadways make driving, braking, turning, and accelerating more difficult. Reduce your speed when driving on wet, slippery, or snowy roads. When you start to feel that you could lose control of the car, let up on the gas. If you’re car has anti-lock brakes, be sure to apply gentle constant pressure when braking. If your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, you should pump the brakes to stop more effectively and safely.
2. Be sure your tires are in good condition
As mentioned earlier, bald or under-inflated tires are a major cause of winter car accidents because they are ineffective at gripping the road. Have your tires rotated and checked for bare spots before winter weather sets in, and replace them if needed. In some areas, and with certain vehicles, you might consider getting snow tires.
3. Keep your windshield and windows clear of snow and ice
Snow and ice build-up can reduce your visibility and lead to an accident. Always wait to drive until your windshield is completely clear. Also, check to make sure your windshield wipers in good condition, and be sure to keep your wiper fluid filled.
4. Follow the 10 second rule to keep a safe distance behind other vehicles
Snowy, wet and icy roads can make it harder to stop than usual, which is why you need to increase the “safe stopping distance” between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
One rule of thumb is to follow the 10 second rule. Here’s how it works: Watch the vehicle in front of you as it passes a fixed object like a bridge, sign, building, painted markings on the street, etc. Then count one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc. To keep a safe stopping distance, you’ll want to count to ten-one thousand before your car reaches that same object.
Doing a little winter car preparation before the snow flies, and following these winter driving tips, will help keep you safer and hopefully prevent weather-related winter car accidents from happening to you.
I’ve skidded and lost control of my car a bit on snowy and icy roads, but I’ve never been in a winter car accident.
What about you? Have you been in a winter car accident? What were the contributing factors and circumstances?
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