In the coming weeks, many Americans will be driving on the roads to visit friends and family for the holidays. The increased amount of traffic provides danger in and of itself, but the cold weather (particularly in the northern parts of the country) is an added risk that motorists should be prepared for. There are a number of steps that can be taken prior to and during your travels that can reduce the risk of incident.
Cold Weather Safety Tips
Below are some helpful tips to keep you and your family safe while traveling in cold weather.
Make Sure Your Vehicle's Maintenance Is Current
One of the biggest dangers of driving in cold weather is breaking down in freezing temperatures. In order to avoid having car problems that could leave you and your family stranded in poor weather conditions, make sure to have your vehicle inspected for any mechanical problems.
Some of the key parts you will want to have inspected are:
- Tire Pressure – Checking your tire pressure in the winter is extremely important. For every 10 degree drop in temperature, tire pressure can drop by one pound. Underinflated tires can make the vehicle difficult to handle and more susceptible to blowouts that could leave you stranded.
- Battery – In addition to your battery, make sure that the charging system is functioning properly. Batteries have to work harder in the winter to start the engine because the low temperatures make the oil less "fluid." So while your battery may have worked just fine in the summer and fall, you should not assume it will start with as much ease in the winter. Have a mechanic check the battery and charging system to make sure it is charging to its fullest potential.
- Cooling System – Have a mechanic inspect your cooling system for any leaks. If any leaks are present, have them fixed immediately. You will also want to make sure that the antifreeze you inject in your engine is the proper mix of coolant to water for the temperatures your area is likely to face. Many people assume that 100% coolant is better for the vehicle, but a 50/50 coolant to water mix actually has a lower freezing point. If you are unsure what the best mix is for your area, consult with your local mechanic or a service representative at the auto parts store.
- Windshield Wipers – Having functioning windshield wipers is particularly important if you live in an area of the country that is likely to see snowstorms. You can also install wipers with rubber coverings that prevent the blade from collecting ice.
Keep Emergency Supplies in Your Trunk
Even if you have followed all of the tips above and have your car well-maintained, there is no assurance that it will not break down and leave you stranded on the side of the road. Depending on where you are traveling, that could mean a long walk to the nearest service station or hours in the car waiting for a tow truck to arrive.
I f you do get stranded, you will want to have a few basic supplies to make sure you are safe and warm.
- Sandbag – Maybe your car did not break down, but just got caught in a patch of snow or ice. Having a couple of bags of sand to place under the tires or behind the rear axle can help provide you with the traction needed to accelerate out of the hazard.
- Warm Clothing – If your vehicle breaks down and the engine will not start, you may be left without a heat source until help can arrive. In freezing temperatures, this could leave you at risk of hypothermia. Make sure you have a spare blanket or winter coat to keep you warm while you wait for assistance.
- Cell Phone / Charger – In today's age, it is extremely likely that you will have a cell phone while you are traveling, but if you don't, consider purchasing one for emergency purposes. Additionally, make sure that you have a car charger and/or spare battery in case the battery needs charging.
Before driving, make sure your vehicle is cleared of all snow or ice that may have accumulated on it. Clear all windows and headlights to ensure full visibility. Be cautious while you're on the road. Even if you are accustomed to driving in poor conditions, you should not assume the other motorists are as well. Drive slowly and make sure to keep proper distance from other vehicles on the road. A sudden patch of ice could send your vehicle out of control or make stopping at a normal distance more difficult.
What to Do If You're Involved in a Car Accident
Even the most cautious and prepared driver cannot fully prevent being in a car accident. If you are involved in an accident, consult with a car accident lawyer about your legal rights. Determining the cause of the accident is the first step to determining liability. If you are not at fault, you could entitled to compensation for any injuries you suffered. Contact one of our lawyers today for a free consultation.