As our area braces for the first cold snap of winter – and the first snow of the season – driving becomes more dangerous.
The current forecasts for our area may be predicting only little accumulation. But the reality is that even a dusting of snow can be dangerous.
- In light snow, many drivers won’t practice additional safety measures like driving more slowly or leaving extra space between cars.
- Light snow also means that schools and other organizations and businesses don’t close, so weather-related risks not only make road conditions potentially hazardous, but also exacerbate existing traffic on the road.
So, even though we’re getting “only” a coating to a couple inches of snow today, the roads could turn hazardous. You don’t want a coating of snow taking you or your car out of commission, so follow these five winter driving safety tips. They could just save your life.
1. Take Your Time
A slow speed is key to a safe drive in even light snow.
If you can help it, don’t step on the gas or slam on the brakes – you could end up losing traction, fishtailing, or sliding. Instead, accelerate and decelerate slowly whenever possible.
Recognize that both stopping and going will take more time not only for you, but also for the other drivers around you, and drive more slowly than you typically would.
2. Keep Your Distance
Did you know that it takes four to 10 times as long to stop your car in snowy road conditions than it does on dry pavement?
Add to that the fact that many drivers don’t leave a safe amount of space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them to begin with, and it’s no wonder that accidents happen on icy roads.
On a normal day, you should leave more than three seconds worth of space between you and the next vehicle – in snow, that should be 8 to 10 seconds or more.
3. Stay Visible
When the snow is blowing, visibility decreases – and that means other cars on the road might not see you.
The cloud cover that’s common on snowy days doesn’t help.
Even in very light snow, always drive with your lights turned on to make yourself visible.
4. Know What Freezes First
When you first pull onto the street, maybe the roadway isn’t icy – yet – but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security.
Different materials and structures on the roads freeze faster than others. Use extra caution when driving in snowy weather on bridges, overpasses, and highway exits.
5. Beware of Black Ice
One way we judge the road conditions even before we get behind the wheel is by what we see. If the street looks clear, we might assume that there’s no danger from the snow and ice – but that assumption could prove dangerous.
Invisible ice, known as black ice because it blends imperceptibly into asphalt roads and parking lots, is even more hazardous than ice you can easily spot with your eyes because drivers can’t see it to avoid it.
Know whether the temperature is near the freezing point, and drive with caution even if you don’t see ice on the road. Better safe than sorry!