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Winter Driving Safety

May contain: nature, outdoors, car, transportation, vehicle, automobile, snow, storm, blizzard, and winter

Driving safely on snow covered and icy roadways, as we approach this holiday season! Many drivers lose control of their cars and get into accidents when the roads are snow packed and icy. Snowy and Icy roads can cause you to lose tire traction even more so than when driving, making it the top causes of car accidents, and vehicle fatalities. Sometimes you can’t prevent crashes on icy roads because vehicle might be out of control, but there are ways you can be prepared.

Here are some absolute driving behaviors that can’t happen…, (regardless of the weather).

I refer to these as “High Risk Behaviors”, and if you are guilty of these and don’t change…, statistically it’s just a matter of time for you. And when it does, it is so sad to see it in the eyes of family, friends, co-workers, and the public when tragedies happen. Those involved could have, or may have been completely avoided if a few safety practices had become good driving habits. Yet, you can’t go back and change what has already happened in these tragic situations.

(And yes, these contributing factors happen all too often in our region. The crews of Sheridan & West Valley Fire District’s see firsthand the consequences of these “High Risk Behaviors”.)

  • DON’T TALK on THE CELL PHONE while driving…., these make you distracted when your driving needs your full attention.
  • Everyone in the vehicle must be wearing seatbelts. Being thrown from a vehicle in a crash, nearly always produces life threatening injuries and death.
  • Large Commercial trucks and trailers must have greater stopping distances and more room to negotiate in traffic. Don’t make sudden and unexpected vehicle maneuvers in front of these heavy hauling vehicles. If you do “dart in and out” of traffic, the driver of these vehicles may have to suddenly brake and potentially lose control and crash.
  • Don’t operate any vehicle under the influence on any intoxicating beverage or product.

High-Risk Behaviors put you, your passengers (family members, co-worker, friends), and the others on the roadways at an extremely high risk of being involved in a life changing accident…, and lives being lost!!! As the Holiday Season approaches, don’t be the cause of this human tragedy.

Tips for Avoiding Car Accidents on Snowy - Icy Roads

1. Get a grip. To have adequate snow traction, a tire requires at least 6/32-inch deep tread and most passenger-car tires manufactured today usually have 10/32-inch of tread. Ultrahigh-performance summer tires have little or no grip in snow. Even all-season tires don’t necessarily have great snow traction. If you live where the roads are regularly covered with snow, use snow tires (sometimes called winter tires by manufacturers). If they have a “snowflake on the mountain” symbol on the sidewall, then they meet a tire-industry standard for snow traction.

2. Make sure you can see. Be sure to maintain functionality of your windshield wiper blades, and clean the inside of your windows thoroughly. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid by draining older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears. Switching fluid colors makes this easy.

3. Run the air-conditioner. In order to remove condensation and frost from the interior of windows, engage your air-conditioner and select the fresh air option. It is fine to set the temperature on hot, which many vehicles automatically do this when you choose the defrost setting.

4. Check your lights. You should first make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow. Use your headlights so that others will see you and if you have an older car with sand-pitted headlights, get a new set of lenses. Or have them professionally reconditioned, to like new condition.

5. Take A Brake. Learn how to get maximum efficiency from your brakes before an emergency. It is easy to properly use antilock brakes: stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off, stay hard on the pedal, and steer around the obstacle. A little bit of steering goes a very long way in an emergency.

6. Watch out carefully for “black ice.” If the road looks slick, it probably is. This is especially true with one of winter’s worst hazards: black ice. Also called “glare ice”, this is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely.

7. Too much steering is bad. If a slick section in a turn causes your front tires to lose grip, the common but incorrect reaction is to continue turning the steering wheel. If the icy conditions end and the front tires regain grip, your car will dart whichever way the wheels are pointed.

8. Avoid rear-tire slides. First, choose a car with electronic stability control (ESC). Fortunately, ESC will be mandatory on all 2012 models. Next, make sure your rear tires have at least as much tread as your front tires. Always remember, if you buy winter tires, do it for all four wheels.

Regardless of your driving skills or car preparation, there are some winter conditions that cannot be conquered. Using these tips may help you successfully navigate snowy and icy roads and prevent a fatal car accident the next time ol’ man winter is in town.

Until Next Month, Have a Wonderful Christmas & Happy New Year!!!

Be Safe Out There.

Bill Alguire, Fire Chief

Sheridan Fire District 503-843-2467