The snow is starting to fall here in Northern Colorado and our first serious snowstorms are right around the corner. As the temperatures drop and snow comes down, the driving conditions are going to get a whole lot worse. For a lot of Colorado natives, driving in the snow is no big deal. You get used to it with enough practice. Still, there are important things to consider that not everyone knows, no matter how long they’ve been driving in the snow. On top of that, there are plenty of people who recently moved here from warmer climates and don’t have a lot of practice driving in icy and snowy conditions. And let’s not forget all the young drivers on the road out there! There are countless drivers on the road who will be experiencing winter driving for the very first time over the next few months. 

In today’s blog, we wanted to take the time to look at some essential tips for driving in winter conditions. These tips will aid in creating the safest driving experience for you and the people with whom you will share the roads this winter. Before we launch into these tips, though, remember that the absolute best way to be safe on the winter roads is to avoid them in the first place. Dangerous driving conditions should be avoided whenever possible. Of course, sometimes being out on those roads is inevitable. These tips are for those situations.

If you do find yourself in an accident, be sure to take the proper precautions. Stay safe and make sure others are safe. And then reach out to your trusted car accident lawyer. Hadfield Stieben & Doutt is here to help with your car accident claim. Reach out to our offices in Fort Collins for assistance. And now, let’s look at some tips for winter driving.

Know Your Vehicle

So, you’ve found yourself out on the roads in snowy or icy conditions. What now? It’s important that your vehicle is prepared for these situations. Not only is important to have stocked up on emergency provisions like water, food, blankets, and extra clothing, but you will have wanted to make sure that your car has plenty of gas and that your tires are winter-ready. Even more than that, you should be familiar with the aspects of your vehicle that are important for winter driving.

Ultimately, every vehicle drives a bit differently. You might be driving a vehicle that you know like the back of your hand. You might also be driving a vehicle that you barely know. Perhaps it’s a new car, a rental car, or a borrowed car. Either way, you want to make sure to familiarize yourself with how it handles — especially how it handles in winter conditions. You can practice winter driving in your vehicle in safe conditions and in safe areas. A side road or a parking lot can be a place for you to get familiar with how your car handles in snowy conditions. Just be sure to take all the appropriate precautions and obey all laws when doing this.

On top of that, you will want to take a look at your vehicle before hitting the road. Make sure you thoroughly clean your vehicle of dirt, ice, and snow. This includes the sheet of snow on top of your car, which can pose hazards. It also includes clearing your tailpipe of any packed snow. You should also take the time to get to know your vehicle’s manual. For instance, it can be very important to know if your vehicle has an antilock brake system. Most newer vehicles have anti-lock brakes. Regardless, how you respond when braking in snowy conditions will depend on whether or not you have anti-lock brakes.

Drive Responsibly

This should go without saying. Of course, everyone wants to drive responsibly. However, it doesn’t actually provide you with a lot of guidance to simply say “drive responsibly.” What does “responsibly” entail, exactly? As car accident lawyers, we’ve discussed and explored our fair share of accidents that were preventable had there been some straightforward precautions taken. Driving carefully in winter can involve many things, such as developing various skills, taking simple precautions, or avoiding certain behaviors. What are some things you can do to ensure that you’re driving responsibly this winter?

Drive Slowly

You will want to take your time on these icy roads. Too many car accidents are caused by people simply speeding on icy roads and snow-packed roads. When the conditions are bad, even going the speed limit can be far too fast for safe driving. Overconfidence can be dangerous in these conditions. 

Increase Your Following Distance

Some people think that their experience and/or their vehicle will prevent them from getting in car accidents even in icy conditions. In reality, it’s best to never go more than 45 miles per hour in such conditions, even on the highway. The amount of time it takes to stop when the roads are slick is significantly increased. And when you’re dealing with roads that are truly iced over or you’ve hit a patch of black ice, you can skid off the road even at speeds less than 10 mph. Accordingly, you will want to greatly increase the amount of distance between you and other vehicles. Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.

Avoid Stopping

As car accident lawyers, we understand that many winter accidents are caused by slipping and sliding. Oftentimes, this is the result of needlessly braking or slowing down. Sometimes the best way to get through an icy patch is to use your vehicle’s inertia and keep moving forward. When sliding on the roads, sometimes the worst thing you can do is apply your brakes, which can cause the slide to veer out of control. 

Turn Into a Slide

If you do find yourself fishtailing or sliding, turn your wheels in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. It helps to look with your eyes where you want the car to go, and turn the steering wheel in that direction. It is easy to steer too far, causing the car to slide in the other direction. If this happens (called overcorrecting), you’ll need to turn in the opposite direction.

Steer Clear of Hills

If possible, try to avoid driving on hills. These can be especially dangerous areas because of the need to adjust your speed, either by acceleration or putting on your brakes. Both of these increase the dangers of icy conditions. Similarly, be mindful of bridges, which can freeze over much faster than normal roads.

Don’t Take Risks

Another key to careful driving is to avoid risky behaviors. This can include avoiding various distractions such as texting while driving or talking with people in the vehicle. The need for focus and attention is always important while driving, but it’s all the more imperative in dangerous conditions. You will also want to obey all traffic laws. Wear seatbelts. Follow local traffic laws. Take notice of speed limits. And, finally, avoid any sort of impaired driving. Regardless of the weather, do not ever get behind the wheel after drinking, taking drugs, or when exhausted. Drive sober. Alcohol and drugs impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory — the skills critical for safe and responsible driving.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

Finally, if you find yourself in an accident or if you have any questions about laws revolving around driving, then be sure to reach out to your trusted car accident lawyer. Hadfield Stieben & Doutt is here to help. Contact our offices in Fort Collins with any inquires. Or schedule your free consultation today.