Winter Driving Tips from Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC
Twelve years ago, in December, an ice storm wreaked havoc in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rainstorms combined with freezing temperatures and caused travel problems and massive power outages across the city. The 2007 storm may be the costliest ice storm in Oklahoma history and caused around $600 million worth of damages.
While this December is expected to be less severe, winter weather conditions can always present hazards on the roadways. In fact, AAA attributes bad weather, winter storms, and poor road conditions to nearly half a million crashes and over 2,000 traffic fatalities every winter.
As such, we’d like to provide you with our winter driving tips:
During the winter, you should always keep extra jackets and blankets inside your car. You may also want to store extra food, water, and medications in your vehicle in case you get stranded.
You should always have a flashlight in your car, but when snow and ice are a factor, you might need an ice scraper, as well. To ensure you can keep your heater running, keep a half tank of gas in your vehicle at all times.
Before you drive, you should also inspect your tires for tread and inflation and have your vehicle checked for regular maintenance. If your tires are worn down, you may lose traction on the road, and if your vehicle is in bad shape, snow and ice aren’t going to help.
Don’t Drive in the Snow
If you can avoid going out during a snow or ice storm, simply stay home. If you have to go out, make sure you drive slowly and avoid using cruise control on slippery surfaces. When you speed up and slow down, make sure to do so as slowly as possible. Starting or stopping too fast can cause you to lose traction and skid across the roadway. Slowing down and stopping on slippery roads always takes longer than it would in ideal conditions.
When driving in snow and ice, you should also increase your following distance to 5 or 6 seconds. This extra space can give you more reaction time and allow enough distance for you to stop, even if the roads are slick.
Brake Gently and Don’t Stop if You Can Avoid It
Whenever you can, drive slowly enough to roll through traffic lights at the correct time. Starting and stopping pose significant risks on icy roadways, so driving slow and steady is the safest option. If you do need to brake or stop, use the ball of your foot to apply firm, even pressure on the brake pedal. Putting your whole foot on the pedal may trigger touchy brakes or cause you to slow down too quickly and go into a skid or slide.
How to Handle Hills
If you are going up a hill, safely gather as much inertia as you can before reaching it. Trying to speed up while you’re already on an icy hill will just make your wheels spin. Once you get to the crest of the hill, it is safe to slow down, but be sure to use extra caution while traveling downhill.
Never stop while going up an icy hill. If you lose momentum, you might start sliding backward.
If you suspect the hill is too steep or you do not have enough inertia to make it over, reconsider your route or call for help.
Getting Stuck in the Snow
While northeast Tulsa doesn’t typically experience blizzards, you might travel somewhere that does during the winter holidays.
If you find yourself trapped in a snowstorm:
- Stay with your vehicle – not only will it provide you temporary shelter, but it will also make you easier to find.
- Make yourself visible – flagging your car with a brightly-colored piece of cloth can indicate distress. Keeping your dome light on will not kill your battery and will make you more noticeable to rescuers.
- Preserve your energy – while you may be able to free your vehicle from the snow, don’t overexert yourself trying to do so.
- Keep your exhaust pipe clear – make sure your exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice, or mud if your engine is running. Blockages can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter the cab of your vehicle.
- Conserve fuel – use your engine and heater in small increments to save fuel. Running your vehicle just long enough to remove the chill can help you stay warmer, longer.
- Bundle up – use any materials you have to stay warm and insulate yourself from the cold. If you don’t have extra coats and blankets, use floor mats, newspapers, and paper maps.
Any time you drive in extreme conditions, you should notify your friends and family of your trip. Let them know where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and what time you expect to arrive.
This way, your loved ones will know to search for you if anything goes wrong.
Stay Safe This Season!
Happy holidays from our entire team at Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLCC.