Like it, love it or tolerate it, wintry weather is headed our way. Here are 10 winter driving safety tips to keep in mind when you hit the roads — whether you’re planning a road trip to Denver, Colorado Springs or Pueblo or heading to the mountains — courtesy of your friends here at McCormick & Murphy personal injury law firm in Colorado. (We also threw in a few bonus tips on what to do if, God forbid, you end up in a car accident.)
- Buddy up. If possible, bring a friend along for the ride. In an emergency situation, two heads are always better than one. If you must travel alone, be sure to let family or friends know where you’re going, what route you plan to take and when you should arrive. (Bonus tips: Try to avoid driving at night, when visibility is further reduced, and always rest up before hitting the road — you’ll need to concentrate if you’re driving on snow and ice.)
- Pack smart. It’s said so often that it’s almost cliché, but really: Pack a winter survival kit if you must travel in bad weather — especially over long distances. Include blankets, food, water, medication, ice scraper, broom, kitty litter, jumper cables, flashlight, and flares or markers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Air up your tires. Your tire pressure may have been fine when the weather was warm. But cold weather can cause the air in your tire to contract, resulting in reduced tire pressure, according to AccuWeather. Cars that sit outside all night are more susceptible to these cold weather pressure changes. If possible, store your car inside at night — but never warm it up inside. (See next tip.)
- Never, ever run a vehicle inside a garage or other enclosed area. “How dangerous is it to operate an engine in a closed building? So dangerous that it must NEVER be done, even for a short time. The extremely high concentrations of carbon monoxide produced by an engine can raise CO concentrations in a closed building so quickly that a person may collapse before they even realize there is a problem,” according to Iowa State University’s College of Engineering. Need we say more?
- Keep your tank half full (or fuller). You never know when an accident — yours or that of another — will cause you to become delayed, stuck or stranded. Having gas in the tank will allow you to turn on your car to keep yourself warm and charge your cell. (If stranded, only run your car 10-15 minutes an hour in order to conserve fuel, an outdoor survival expert told Good Morning America. Also, keep a back window cracked slightly when you do run your car to ensure dangerous fumes don’t build up.)
- Always, always wear your seatbelt. Seriously. We know, it’s tight and cumbersome, especially with a winter coat on. But the time you don’t wear it will be the time you desperately need it. Forgo the seatbelt and you might not be around later to regret it. (Bonus tip: Stay buckled up in your car even if you become stranded, the same outdoor survival expert said. Your car may not be moving, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be hit by another car.)
- Think twice before going for help. If you become stranded, it’s best to remain in your car where rescuers can find you (unless help is available within a short distance). If you leave your car, you may lose sight of it in whiteout conditions, leaving you without shelter.
- Keep your tailpipe unclogged. A tailpipe clogged by snow, mud or ice can cause carbon monoxide to build up in your vehicle, according to AAA. Before you hit the road on wintry days, and if you become stranded, check to ensure your tailpipe is, and remains, clear.
- Carry a piece of brightly colored piece of cloth or ribbon to alert rescuers. If you become stuck, tie it around the top end of your antenna to make it easier to find you, the experts at AAA recommend.
- If stranded, keep warm using whatever you have handy, including floor mats. Ideally, you’ve packed blankets or extra clothes. If not, floor mats, newspapers and paper maps can be used, according to the experts at AAA.
We hope you never find yourself in an accident — in winter weather or otherwise. If you do, what steps should you take? First things first: If anyone is injured, call for help immediately. Second: If there is significant property damage, your car isn’t drivable or you suspect that the other driver is guilty of a crime, call the police.
To read more tips, check out our blog entry on what to do if you’re in a car accident. (You’ll also want to print out this accident checklist and keep a copy in your glove box.)
If you were injured in a car accident, give us a call at 1-888-668-1182 or fill out this form for a free case review. We have more than 50 years of legal experience and have recovered millions of dollars for our clients since 1995.