With temperatures dropping and the holidays fast approaching – winter has almost arrived in the Northwest. The changing season brings upon the prospects of snow and icy conditions in Tacoma, Olympia, and the surrounding South Sound. Although many of us may prefer to stay inside during snowy weather, hitting the road can sometimes be an unavoidable undertaking.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, 24 percent of weather-related auto collisions occur on snowy or icy pavement annually. Furthermore, more 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement each year.
While these may seem like unsettling statistics, you can significant reduce your chances of getting in an automotive collision this winter through taking necessary safety precautions. Ask yourself: Are you and your car fully prepared for the winter? Before driving this season, be sure your vehicle is ready for the potentially dangerous driving conditions ahead.
Keeping your car well-maintained year-round is important for both safety and fuel economy, but it carries added significance in the winter. If you aren’t knowledgeable about cars, have a trusted mechanic inspect your vehicle’s tire tread and tire pressure, as cold winter temperatures can lower tire pressure. They should also check other key mechanical areas, such as the battery, heater, brakes, filters, and fluid levels.
If you plan on traveling through Washington mountain passes or long distances during the holidays, it pays to be prepared. Consider equipping your vehicle with extra supplies and winter gear, which may come in handy in the event of an emergency. These items include:
- Snow chains
- Jumper cables
- Snow shovel and scraper
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Warm clothing and winter accessories, e.g. snow boots, coats, and gloves
- Windshield washer fluid and antifreeze
- Flares or reflectors
Winter driving takes more concentration and awareness of the roads and other motorists. When driving, use slow motions and be sure to take it easy on the brakes. It’s important to leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, as it it takes more time and distance to stop in icy conditions.
Skids or slides occurs when there isn’t enough friction between your tires and the road. This typically occurs when driving in wet or icy conditions, stopping abruptly, or suddenly changing direction or speed. If you find yourself skidding, do not slam on the brakes. Although this may be your instinctive reaction, this can worsen the situation. Instead, remove your foot off the gas pedal and turn your wheels in the direction the back of the vehicle is moving to help correct the slide. Try tapping on your brakes lightly to help you gain traction and slow the movement of your car.
Before you head out on the road, always check your local weather conditions and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. My best tip is to stay home if you don’t have a mandatory reason to attempt to conquering the winter roads. While you may consider yourself a safe winter driver, other motorists may not be.
Stay safe and warm out there!