Raleigh, North Carolina may not have freezing weather like Buffalo, New York, or Chicago, but the Triangle area still has its share of inclement weather during the winter. For that matter, it’s not only snow, sleet and ice that make roads hazardous. Freezing rain, fog and wind contribute to car accidents as well.
On average, nearly 5,000 people are killed and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year, the Federal Highway Administration says.
As temperatures drop in Raleigh and the rest of the state, and the probability of driving on slick roads and other adverse weather conditions increases, it’s important to prepare yourself to drive safely in winter weather. Here are some tips for getting through this year’s winter driving without getting into a car accident.
As temperatures start to drop, the time to prepare your vehicle for winter weather in order to prevent a cold weather car accident is now. In an interview with WRAL.com, Dr. Allen Mask encourages drivers to:
- Fill up the gas tank and keep it full throughout the winter, especially if a big storm is expected.
- Check and maintain proper battery, oil, and antifreeze levels.
- Get your tires checked, and make sure air pressure levels are where they should be. Overfilled or underinflated tires can be dangerous.
- Make sure your car’s heating and defrost systems work as they should.
- Check your brakes and brake fluid and make sure they are in proper condition.
- Add a wintertime mixture of cleanser to your windshield wiper fluid to prevent freezing.
- The AAA Auto Club also recommends making sure your headlights are kept clean.
Rule No. 1 for Avoiding Inclement Weather Car Crashes: Slow Down
When driving in bad weather, slow down and take your time. Even if you are running late, traveling at speeds that are unsafe for the weather conditions increases your risk of being involved in a weather-related car accident.
When roads are icy or wet, it takes longer for your car to stop, and higher speeds also lengthen stopping distances. Visibility is often reduced when it is snowy or rainy, making traveling too fast more dangerous. It is harder to control a fast-moving vehicle on slippery roads.
You should allow extra distance between your car and the vehicle in front to avoid a rear-end collision. Other drivers may not be driving cautiously. Extra space between your car and the vehicle ahead gives you more time to react to that car suddenly stopping, skidding, or doing anything unexpected.
Driving in the Fog
When winter fog rolls in and visibility drops, slowing down to increase your following distance is only the first step. Turning on headlights increases your ability to see and increases your visibility to other drivers. Use low beams or fog lights if your vehicle has them. Remember that high beams will reflect off heavy fog and reduce visibility further.
When you brake in heavy fog, tap the brakes a couple of times to alert drivers behind you. Signal well ahead of turns or lane changes, and be cautious about what may lie ahead as you crest hills or round blind curves in foggy conditions.
Driving in the Rain at Night
Many people find it harder to see during nighttime rain. Rainfall decreases visibility and wet roads reflect lights to create glare. In addition to slowing down during and after a nighttime rain, avoid focusing on the middle of the area illuminated by your headlights. AAA advises focusing on the edges or outlines of objects. Your eyes can pick up images better this way than by looking directly at objects.
In heavy rain, beware of the danger of hydroplaning, in which a vehicle’s tires lose contact with the road and skid over the surface of water covering the road. Hydroplaning generally occurs at higher speeds, so slow down. On a multi-lane highway or road, try to remain in the middle lane instead of outside lanes, where rainwater may pool.
If you feel your vehicle begin to hydroplane or skid, lift your foot from the accelerator instead of braking. Steer in the direction you want the car to go instead of turning. As the tires reestablish contact with the road, accelerate gently to gain control of your vehicle.
Driving on Ice
It is very difficult to drive on ice safely. Unless driving is absolutely necessary, stay home when roads are icy to reduce your risk of being involved in a head-on collusion.
Clear ice that blends with the color of the road and is sometimes referred to as black ice is a danger day and night. Drivers who hit patches of ice may have no warning until their vehicle starts to slide.
If you must drive in icy conditions, try to maintain a steady speed, and turn, accelerate, and brake gradually. Remember that bridges and elevated ramps freeze faster because they are surrounded by freezing air temperatures. Do not try to power your way up an icy hill. Doing so can lead to your tires spinning out.
If you start to skid, try not to panic and brake or turn wildly. Instead, take your foot off the brake and steer your car away from danger. Don’t accelerate until you are off the ice and have regained control of your car.
Driving on Snow Safely
As you start out after a new snowfall, brake a few times away from traffic to see how your brakes react. Each snowfall is different, and the ability to maintain traction will change with the wetness of the snow.
It is best to maintain a steady speed and turn or brake as little as possible when driving on snow. When it’s necessary to slow down, do so by lifting your foot from the accelerator and, if needed, feathering your brakes.
Cars driving on snow will crush it and push it toward areas between lanes, where melted portions may refreeze.
If a driver drives at speeds that are unsafe for weather and road conditions such as snow or ice, that driver may be liable if a crash occurs.
Talk to an Attorney if You are Involved in a Winter Weather Car Crash
If you are involved in an auto accident this winter caused by another driver, consulting with experienced Raleigh auto accident attorneys can help you understand your legal options and how to proceed. From gathering evidence to filing a claim and negotiating a fair accident settlement, the Raleigh auto accident attorneys at Hardison & Cochran have the experience to help.
If you have questions after a car accident, need a professional opinion about whether an insurance company’s accident settlement offer is fair or want to learn more about what compensation you should be able to recover, call us today or contact us online to request a free case consultation.