|Winter driving can get very exciting. Be extra vigilant and get home safely.|
Massive 35 Car Pileup Woke Me Up
Last Friday, our family narrowly missing being part of a 35 car accident on Rt. 93 in New Hampshire.
It got me thinking: "How do you prevent being part of such an accident?" and "What would you do if this happened to you?"
Before a Winter Accident
As most of us know, driving in winter is not the same as driving during a sunny summer day.
Don't be like this video's drivers who believed extra speed was the right winter driving choice. (Warning: Some of these crashes are painful to watch.)
Basic Winter Driving Tips
- Prep your vehicle for winter: Check your tires - do they still have enough tread? Consider changing over to snow tires if you regularly drive in snowy conditions. The big point is to keep up on your car's maintenance so that everything works when you need to avoid an accident. (http://www.ready.gov/car has some excellent car safety tips.)
- Prep yourself for winter: Make sure you have warm clothes and blankets in your vehicle. If you get into an serious accident, you and your family may have to stand outside of your vehicle for an extended period of time waiting for police and fire to arrive. Also, keep your cell phone charged - you can't call for help if it's dead. (http://www.ready.gov/car has an excellent car safety kit list.)
- SLOW DOWN & drive carefully: Every accident in the this video could have been prevented if the drivers adjusted their speeds to their driving conditions. It's absolutely stupid to speed during bad winter conditions, trying to shave off a few seconds of your trip.
- Leave space: Tailgating during the summer commute is now standard practice, but during the winter, leave at least 3 seconds of space between you and the car in front of you when the weather gets bad. Additionally, if the car behind you is following too closely, move over if you can and let them pass. This way you'll be able to call for help when they go off the road instead rear-ending you.
- Turn your lights on: When the visibility decreases - in any season - turn your on your low beams. Most cars have automatic driving lights, but by turning on your low beams, you also turn on your rear and side marker lights. I've lost track of how many times I've almost hit a white or grey car in bad weather because they didn't have their lights on. Yes, it's daytime and yes, you can see the road just fine. BUT THE REST OF THE WORLD CAN'T SEE YOU! In bad weather especially, you need to drive defensively - that means letting the other drivers know you are there.
After a Winter Accident
If you are unfortunately involved in an accident during a winter storm, remain calm, follow these safety tips, and call for help.
- Try to get to the right side of the road as far away from traffic as possible.
- Stay in your car with your seatbelt on. Put the hazard lights on so others on the road can see you. Get out of your car only if it's unsafe to stay inside (your car is on fire, etc.). If you must get out of your car, be extra cautious during the winter. Limited visibility and slippery conditions can get you run over by other drivers behind you. Get as far to the right as possible, away from traffic. If you can, get on the other side of the guard rail to protect you and your family.
- This is where having warm clothes and blankets in your vehicle is important - you and your family will now be outside in the cold waiting for police and fire services to arrive.
- If a flare or strobe light is available, use that to call attention to your vehicle. Tying a bright piece of cloth to the antenna works as well.
- If you get stuck in snow, straighten the wheels and accelerate slowly. Avoid spinning the tires and digging yourself in deeper. Rock the vehicle back and forth, using its weight and momentum to get unstuck.
- If you can't get going, run the engine only a few minutes at a time to stay warm. Periodically crack a window to get fresh air. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow so harmful carbon monoxide fumes don't drift back through the car's interior.
Agencies like AAA and FEMA recommend staying off the roads if the weather is too hazardous in your area. Not knowing how to maneuver your vehicle through a winter storm jeopardizes you, your passengers, and other drivers sharing the road with you. Getting your car ready for winter and anticipating and avoiding dangerous circumstances will help keep you safely on the road and in control.
Please stay safe out there - Spring's only 70 days away!
Sources: Various auto safety sites plus 30 years of personal winter driving experience.Image credit: Copyright http://www.wmur.com/