Driving in snow and ice is part of life in Michigan. So is contending with ensnarled traffic when a snowstorm starts. Here are some tips from the Detroit car accident lawyers at Christensen Law to help you navigate in winter weather.
Follow the Three P’s
In Michigan, winter driving can be particularly hazardous. According to Fox2 in Detroit, the state sees an average of 43 or 44 inches of snowfall between December and February. That makes the roads a perilous place to be for even the best driver.
Anticipate what you’ll be facing this winter and plan for it. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) sums its recommendations up as the 3 P’s of safe winter driving:
- Prepare for the trip.
- Protect yourself.
- Prevent crashes on the road.
Starting with key ways to prepare for your trip, OSHA recommends:
- Maintain your car: Check that your car is in good shape before leaving home. That includes checking your battery, tire tread and windshield wipers, keeping your windows clean, putting no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir, and checking your antifreeze.
- Keep safety items in the vehicle: You never know when an emergency will arise, and winter weather requires special preparation. Keep a flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (e.g., sand, kitty litter, floor mats), shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, warning devices (like flares), and blankets in the car. For long trips, include food, water, and medications.
- Stuck? Stay in your car if it’s safe to do so: Put bright markers on antenna or windows or shine a dome light to stay visible. If you do start your car, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and that you only do it enough to keep warm.
- Plan your trip: Check the weather and traffic reports before leaving home. Allow plenty of time to reach your destination and be sure that others know the route you will be taking. Update them regularly along the way.
- Practice winter driving: During the daylight hours, practice defensive winter driving by finding an empty lot and learning maneuvers to help prevent accidents in snowy and icy conditions.
Next, a few precautionary suggestions to protect yourself and your passengers as you head out:
- Wear your seat belt.
- Make sure that your children are properly secured in their car seats. Remove bulky coats that can prevent kids from being buckled in safely.
- Remember that children 12 and under are much safer in the back seat.
And finally, once you’re on the road, take these prudent steps to prevent crashes:
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Drive slowly.
- Increase the space between you and other vehicles to account for longer stopping distances.
- Scan the road for pedestrians and other, less-visible obstacles.
- Stop when you feel fatigued.
- Stop at least every three hours.
- Rotate drivers if possible.
How to Drive Safely in Ice and Snow
Even if you feel like a pro at driving in winter weather, here are some pointers to ensure safety:
- Don’t stop unless you have to, especially when you are driving uphill.
- To improve traction on snowy roads, steer a little to one side where the snow is closer to pure white and is less packed.
- Know how to handle your vehicle in the event of a skid or a spinout.
- Maintain a safe driving speed but don’t go at a snail’s pace.
- Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside it.
- Do not use cruise control.