Winter weather, including freezing rain, ice and snow, can create hazardous driving conditions that increase the potential for accidents as well as getting your vehicle stuck.
Motorists should raise their awareness during winter weather driving conditions and practice these common sense defensive driving habits.
- No matter what weather conditions exist, practice the 5 Seeing Habits (see below);
- Always pay attention to changing road conditions and adjust your speed accordingly.
- Double your eye lead time and following distance in poor weather conditions.
- Clear your vehicle of ice and snow. Make sure all of your windows offer complete visibility from ice and snow before moving.
- During slippery conditions conduct smooth starts and stops, with controlled power at start-up and earlier braking to eliminate the need for “heavy braking” when stopping.
- Anticipate early freezing and slow down on overpasses and underpasses.
- During turns on slippery roads use a safe speed to maintain a greater following distance than on dry pavement.
- On inclined surfaces maintain a space cushion and be sensitive to the application of power to avoid rear wheel power skids (in rear-wheel drive vehicles, likewise with front wheel power skids in front-wheel drive vehicles). One in seven accidents occur on inclined surfaces. On down-clines, extra following distance is necessary since gravity can impact the tendency to skid.
- Avoid situations where your vehicle could get stuck in snow, mud or ice. Parking too close to the curb in heavy snow can result in getting stuck since the road often declines toward the curb, causing a vehicle to sink down a bit. When choosing a place to park, pick higher ground.
- Know if your vehicle has anti-lock brakes. If so, do not “stab the brake.” Keep continuous pressure on the brake pedal and the ABS will do the rest. For vehicles without ABS, you should use “stab braking” and apply pressure until you feel the wheels begin to lock up, then release and repeat. Both methods allow you to stop without losing your ability to steer.
The Five Seeing Habits
- Aim High in Steering – Look as far down the road as possible to uncover important traffic information to make appropriate decisions.
- Get The Big Picture – Maintain the proper following distance so you can comfortably determine the true hazards around your vehicle. Don’t tailgate others.
- Keep Your Eyes Moving – Scan, don’t stare. Constantly shift you eyes while driving. Active eyes keep up with changing traffic conditions.
- Leave Yourself An Out – Be prepared. Surround your vehicle with space in front and at least on one side to escape conflict.
- Make Sure Other Drivers See You – Communicate in traffic with your horn, lights and signals to establish eye contact. Be reasonably sure of people’s intentions.
Winter weather conditions can create safe driving challenges. By following safe driving habits you can prevent accidents, avoid getting stuck and help ensure the safety of yourself and others.