The holidays have come and gone and a certain widely watched football championship game has been played. Winter’s cornerstones happen early in the season and it’s easy to forget that there are still almost two full months left of cold temperatures and challenging road conditions to contend with. Combine that with “I can’t believe it’s dark already” sunset times and the dangers of exposure to subfreezing temperatures and a roadside situation that would be a minor inconvenience any other season can quickly become a battle for survival in winter.
Staying prepared and having respect for the challenges that winter driving presents can mean the difference between arriving safely to your destination or becoming a statistic, and the statistics are staggering. Winter of 2017 saw some 456,000 vehicular crashes on America’s roadways with 159,000 injuries and 2,099 deaths. It’s worth repeating that those statistics are just for winter.
The safe operation of a vehicle is critical for contending with winter driving conditions. Having the proper equipment for your vehicle and understanding how that equipment affects the vehicle’s handling and performance – as well as its limitations – is the foundation of winter driving safety. While many vehicles are now equipped with either four-wheel- or all-wheel drive in at least some capacity, the understanding that such systems do not affect braking could lead to a reduction in collisions and vehicles that have run off the road. The fact that your all-wheel drive system got you going in the snow does not mean that it will stop you if your wheels lose traction.
Developing a healthy respect for ice is also an important part of safe winter driving. Not only can the thinnest layer of ice cause a complete loss of traction, but it can also be completely invisible. In many cases, a person injured in an incident brought about by ice had no idea they were in danger until they were on the ice itself.
Paying attention to basic winter driving tips, along with having an adequate roadside survival and assistance kit in your vehicle, can help make sure that your winter travels end safely. Get more information about safe winter driving from the American Automobile Association here.