As Winter begins to gear up in North Texas, an icy danger is brewing to the Northwest. This weekend, Dallas is expected to be glazed with a quarter inch of ice and, as we all know, Texans aren’t the best drivers in the Winter. It seems that when a North Texan sees any hint of white falling from the sky, they are stricken with panic and completely forget how to operate a motor vehicle. Driving in the snow and ice is dangerous enough, but driving on an ice rink that’s full of wary, hesitant drivers is very dangerous. Accidents from icy weather are very common; prevent an accident these next few months by following these tips for safe winter driving, preparation, and emergency response. Are you prepared for travel in snowy, icy situations?
Preparation before Driving
Before you even set out on your travels, it is important to weigh the risks of driving itself. Is it really necessary to get in your car and pick up some milk from the grocery store? Can you go another day without it? Like any other decision, the risks need to be compared to the reward for the most beneficial outcome. If it can wait, I’d advise just staying in the warmth of your home and not risking your well-being for a loaf of bread or a cup of coffee.
Alright so you’ve weighed your options and it is absolutely necessary for you to leave the house into the winter wonderland of your community. First things first, is your car ready for these kinds of elements? Various car preparations need to be kept in mind before venturing out into the snow and ice:
Cold weather starts require a fully charged battery. Make sure your battery has been tested and is running at full capacity. If it isn’t fully charged you may need to replace the alternator or voltage regulator.
The amount of traction you have on a slippery roadway could be the difference between gently gliding through a turn with precision, or losing control and fish-tailing into a lamppost! Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have an adequate amount of traction on the treads. For extreme ice and snowfall, use tire chains; but remember if you have to put chains on your tires, put them on all four of your wheels for balance of traction.
In winter snow and foggy conditions, your lights are more important for others to see you than for you to see ahead of your vehicle. So make sure you’re seen with fully functioning lights. On top of their beacon-like use, having fully functioning lights may also prevent the police from giving you an easily avoided citation. Headlight casing and lenses also tend to get grimy and fogged up, so make sure to keep them clean. Dirty headlight lenses can cut the light output up to 90%!
Living in Texas, we don’t see too many below freezing days in a row. That being said, the health of your radiator probably isn’t something that keeps you up at night. But, with this weekend ahead of us, you never know when those sequential cold days will come. Your radiator needs to be prepared as well! Use a combination of anti-freeze and water in your radiator to prevent the contents from freezing. Science fact: water expands when it freezes, if expanding ice is in your radiator it may cause cracking and eventual leaks when it melts back to liquid form. Anti-freeze lowers the freezing temperature, so your radiator will stay healthy and happy.
Safe Driving Techniques
Alright, so you’ve checked your car and you’re ready to hit the road. Before many set out on the snowy open road, they like to warm up the interior and engine of the vehicle before setting out. An important (and obvious) tip to keep in mind is to not warm up the car in a closed garage. Carbon monoxide can build up in the enclosed space and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Before setting out, visibility is very important. Unlike normal rain storms, snow on your windshield will add another level of obstruction to your view. Before setting out, make sure to scrape your windshield with a non-abrasive scraper to clear your view of frost and ice. If you took the time to heat up your car, the warmth of your windshield from inside the car will help keep the ice from taking over your field of vision.
Now that you’re on the road, and you can see and be seen, there are certain driving techniques that need to be used to ensure a safe roadway presence. Being vigilant is very most important when driving on ice. You never know when you’ll hit an unexpected patch of hidden or “black” ice that will require a necessary, prompt reaction. If you start sliding unexpectedly, always turn into the direction you are sliding to align your front wheels with the direction of the slide. If you are sliding to the right turn your wheel to the right; this method applies to left slides as well. Remain calm in these situations, you could potentially prevent serious injury or structural damage to your vehicle. Also, it is smart to keep your car in lower gears for slower acceleration as to limit skidding and ultimately loss of control.
When driving up a hill it is absolutely key to keep moving. Never stop on a hill that is covered in ice. If you lose momentum going up a hill and you’re still on an incline, there is no worse feeling than feeling your vehicle slide backwards uncontrollably into oncoming traffic behind you.
Say you’re driving in the snow and you live off of the beaten path. Your only route home may be a dirt or gravel road. These types of roadway surfaces have a higher chance of getting your vehicle stuck. If your car is stuck in the snow, don’t panic and floor it. If you floor it, the tread of your tires will only dig you deeper into trouble. Try turning your steering wheel from side to side to clear away excess snow from underneath the front tires. If that doesn’t work, use a snow shovel to clear away excess snow from under your car and spread kitty litter or sand around the tires to create a surface for traction. With these tips, you’ll free your car in no time!
Driving in the snow is very risky, but sometimes it’s necessary to venture into the icy streets. If you or a loved one is hurt in a car accident, please contact a Dallas wreck attorney at W.T. Johnson for any and all legal consultation.