Tips on Avoiding Winter Car and Truck Accidents

It is that time of the year again as the season of snow, ice and (hopefully) road salt descends upon us.  It seems that every year at this time of the year we see a rash of auto and truck accidents related to wintry road conditions.  While some these are true accidents, many are avoidable.  To stay safe and avoid car crashes and truck accidents this winter, follow these tips:

1.  Give yourself time to adjust to the conditions.  According to Professor David Havas at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, it takes our brains time to learn and relearn how to drive in the snow.  So, even if you group up in Buffalo, driving in the winter is not like riding the proverbial bicycle.  Give yourself time to adjust and avoid some of those car accidents that are avoidable.

2.  Slow down.  It seems obvious, but is worth repeating, cars are less responsive and take longer to stop on slick roads than dry roads.  Slow down, leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you (to avoid rear-end collisions) and give yourself plenty of time and space to negotiate curves.

3.  Do not assume that a four wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicle is any safer in winter conditions.   All cars have two wheel steering and four wheel braking. Four wheel and all wheel drive help you accelerate.   Thus, four wheel and all wheel drive is no advantage and does not improve your car’s handling or braking (but good tires do–see below).

3.  Drive on quality all season or winter tires with plenty of tread.  A relatively small amount of your tire, and an even smaller portion of the car as a whole, is in contact with the road at any one time.  Wintry conditions dramatically reduce the coefficient of friction or “grip” that the contact patch of your tire makes with the road.  If you can, buy winter or snow tires.   You can use them for a number of winters and they save wear on your regulard tires.  Thus, the only additional expense is the cost of having the tires mounted and balanced every fall and spring.  Snow tires are the reason state troopers can go anywhere in a two wheel drive police cruiser.  Furthermore the benefits of snow tires in preventing car accidents is in the statistics.  In 2009, Quebec enacted a law requiring drivers to use snow tires between December 15 and March 15.   In the city of  Montreal,  serious wintertime motor vehicle and car accidents dropped by 46 percent following the enactment of the snow tire law.

4.  Do not use cruise control.   To understand why, think of the easiest way to deactivate cruise control (hit the brakes) and, often, the worst thing to do as you hit a slick spot (hit the brakes).  The combination can easily cause a very serious auto or truck accident.

5.  Be extra cautious when crossing bridges or exiting or entering a freeway.  Bridges cool quicker than roadways as they do not have the thermal mass of the earth to moderated temperature.  Hence, bridges may be iced over even when the roads and ground are not.  Likewise, freeway on- and off-ramps are often not as well salted as the main freeway and they may be slick even when the road is not.