Black ice, snow, blizzards, reckless drivers and other factors can make driving in the winter very dangerous. No one wants to be in a winter accident, but sometimes it happens. Here are some tips to help if you find yourself in a winter accident.
Take a deep breath and check your new environment. Your first reaction may be to get out of the car and check the damage, but it may not be safe. Depending on where you are traveling, you could be near a cliff or large drop-off. Perhaps a patch of ice is right outside the door. Before getting out of the car, look around and determine that it is safe to exit the car.
Get off the road.
If the car is still in good enough shape to be driven, move it out of the way. Take it slowly and test the car to see what damage has occurred. Again, drive slowly. You don’t want to make a bad problem get worse. Move your car enough off the road to remove the risk of other cars hitting you.
Stay in the Car
If you are unable to get the car off the road its best to just stay in the car. Walking around an active road is dangerous in general. It is even worse in the winter due to ice hazards and the possibility of falling. (If you slip and fall, you are at the mercy of the driver coming towards you. The cold itself can also be dangerous, so stay in the car and stay warm. If you have to go out be very careful.
Stay Warm and Visible
During those times that you are stuck in the car it’s best to stay warm and stay visible. If it is during a storm, this is even more important to help you be found and to keep other drivers from accidentally hitting your car. Check your “emergency stash” for needed items. (Want to know what you need to include in your “stash?” Click here.) Make sure your hazard lights are turned on in order to help keep your car visible.
Use Your Cell Phone
Finally, use your cell phone to report the accident. This should get help to you sooner. Most cell phones now have cameras. This makes it easy to take photos of the accident.
When choosing which car you may want to purchase, be sure to consider the weather. Walking in the cold is not usually fun, and driving in it can be dangerous. If your region gets snow and/or ice during the winter (not to mention the wind and rain of this cold season) there are some features you may want to consider that will make driving safer not only for you but for others on the road as well.
Electronic Stability Control (“ESC”)
ESC uses sensors and a microcomputer to monitor your steering. It will apply brakes or modulate engine power to help you keep control of the car. They are very effective in reducing crashes. In fact, there was a study from Highway Loss Data Institute showing that ESC reduces fatal single-vehicular crash risk by 49% for cars and SUV’s.*
Antilock Brakes (“ABS”)
This feature has been around for a while so you may already know what it does and how important it is. Your ABS keeps your brakes from locking up which is needed on black ice or wet roads. Think of it like an umbrella. It is better have one and not need it than need one and not have one.
It is very hard to drive when you cannot see the road during winter. Adaptive headlights help to solve the problem. They have small motors that adjust the headlights, moving them to light up where you need them most like around curves, and helping in fog and rain.
Forward Collision Warning and Auto-Braking
Sometimes reaction time is everything — the sooner you react, the more chance you can involve a crash. This feature helps you have a faster reaction time. If its sensors detect something is getting to close to the car, it will auto-brake to aid in avoiding a collision. This may be very helpful especially for older people or when a person gets distracted.
LED tail lights
LED lights are not only brighter but they also last longer. With LED tail lights, you can be seen easier during heavy snow, rain or fog.
Snow chain are not actually a “feature” per se, but they should still be considered for a car in winter. They fit on your tires to make driving easier in the snow. They also help you maintain control of the car, and you may find it easier to drive up and down hills.
* Highway Loss Data Institute
Imagine for a moment, you’re stranded in your car in the winter and the snow is piling up. There could be many causes. There are things you could have done to prevent getting stranded, but you don’t have time to dwell on those. You have to stay warm and wait it out. What should you do?
Make sure the exterior exhaust of the car is clear of snow. If the exhaust gets plugged up, carbon monoxide can build up. It’s odorless, colorless and tasteless. It could kill you if you are exposed to it for too long. Keep that exhaust clear.
If there is shelter nearby, go there. However, if there is nothing around, the best thing to do is stay put to avoid getting lost. If it’s night time, not only can you not see, but it’s also colder which makes it even riskier to go on foot. While you are in your car, it’s good to have some blankets with you and and possibly put on some extra clothes. You need to save gas, so only turn on the car to heat it up and then turn it off. You don’t know how long you will be there.
Make sure you have water around to keep yourself hydrated. If water is not available, you can get some snow and melt it. Don’t eat the snow itself as it will drop your core temperature. Also, if you have a flashlight and some batteries those will be useful for other people to spot you. Flares can help in the same way. Finally, keep your hazard lights on to make it easier for people to spot you.
Hopefully you will never have to deal with being stranded like this, but it is always good to be prepared for such an event. Drive safe everyone!