Tips on Safer Driving in Bad Winter Weather

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on January 11, 2022 in Car Accidents
Updated on April 24, 2024

tips for driving in bad winter weather
Wisconsin and many other areas across the country experience bitterly cold winters. If you live in one of these places, you know just how dangerous the roads can be this time of year. Taking a few minutes to prepare before you get into your car can help you to stay safer on the road.

Tips on Driving in Bad Winter Weather

There are many types of winter weather, from heavy winter rains and black ice to sleet and heavy snowfall. Something as simple as hitting a sheet of black ice could quickly cause a driver to slide, lose control of his or her vehicle, and crash. This is why it is so important to learn more about driving safely this time of year.

Check out this month’s PKSD Newsletter for in-depth tips for driving safer in any kind of winter weather, such as:

Before You Take Your Car On the Road

Car safety begins at home. One of the most important things you can do to ensure you stay safer on the road in bad winter weather – or any time of year – is to maintain your car. During the winter months, drivers should especially:

  • Install winter windshield wipers (they help keep ice from collecting on the blades)
  • Test all of your vehicle lights to confirm they are working properly
  • Check tire pressure to make sure it is at the level recommended by manufacturers
  • Switch to winter tires or, if you have all-season tires, examine tire treads and replace them if necessary
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full throughout the winter, and the washer fluid full
  • Be sure the defrosters are properly working and that you know how to use them
  • Check weather reports for pending storms – a drop in temperature could significantly affect your tire traction

Bad Winter Weather You May Encounter

There are many dangerous cold weather conditions you could encounter on the road, including:

Any Amount of Rainfall

Key tips for driving in rainfall include leaving space between you and the driver in front. Going at the normal rate of speed could be hazardous and put you at risk for hydroplaning. Remember to put your headlights on so that other drivers can see you.

Black Ice

Black ice is an extremely dangerous road condition because it is thin, transparent and therefore difficult to see. When drivers hit black ice unexpectedly, it can cause them to lose control of their vehicle and crash. It is most likely to form at night or in the early morning hours after any type of precipitation. Temperatures are at their lowest points during these times. However, there are other areas, such as bridges, overpasses or roads that are more shaded, that could have black ice throughout the day.

If you do hit a patch of black ice, your immediate reaction may be to slam on the brakes. However, doing so could cause you to slide even more. Instead, keep your foot off the brake and let up on the accelerator as well. Hold your steering wheel straight until you are through the ice patch. If for some reason your vehicle begins to skid and turn, gently turn your steering wheel in that same direction.

Driving at Night

Driving at night any time of the year increases the risk of a crash. In fact, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that about 50 percent of all crashes happen between dusk and dawn.

Some of the best tips for night driving include:

  • Keeping your windshield clean and clear for maximum visibility
  • Regularly check your brakes, lights and turn signals
  • Avoiding driving when you are tired and never drive when under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving defensively by staying alert for possible weather, road and other driver hazards.
  • Being especially on the lookout for pedestrians, bicyclists and any wildlife

In any of these types of weather conditions, your cruise control should be off.

What if You End Up Stranded in Your Car for Hours?

In really cold places, like Wisconsin, getting stranded in bad winter weather is a real possibility. Whether for a couple of hours in a traffic jam, getting stuck in a whiteout or just having your car unexpectedly break down. The last thing you want when the temperatures drop is to get caught unaware.

It is very important to keep your phone fully charged and to have an emergency “go-bag” in your car at all times, and especially during the winter months. At a minimum, this bag should include:

  • Water
  • Blankets
  • Warm clothing
  • Non-perishable food
  • Medication
  • Flashlight with batteries (carry extras)
  • First aid kit
  • Ice scraper
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables
  • A bag of sand and a shovel
  • Car tool kit
  • Extra anti-freeze
  • Portable fully charged cellphone charger

Always let someone know the route you are taking. This gives them a starting point for finding you if you get stranded and are unable to contact anyone.

Check out this month’s newsletter for more tips and information. You can also subscribe to the PKSD’s You Should Know Newsletter to be sure you never miss an issue.

Call PKSD for legal help you can trust. 414-333-3333

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