The holidays will be over in the blink of an eye, and we will soon find ourselves in the dead of winter. While driving can be hazardous any time of year, it is especially so during the winter months. Here are some of the dangers you may encounter while on the road in winter and some tips to help reduce the risks:
Black ice is a thin coat of ice that takes on the color of the underlying pavement, making it nearly impossible to see. It forms most often when it's raining and air is at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface. The most common locations for black ice are bridges, overpasses and shady spots. Slow down, use gradual movements and leave extra space around your vehicle when approaching and driving through any of these areas. Also, stay aware of what’s going on well ahead of you. Actions by other vehicles will alert you to problems more quickly and give you that split-second of extra time to react safely.
Ice fog develops in places where the temperature is at or below freezing. The moisture in the fog collects as ice on windshields and headlights, and your ability to see and be seen is very restricted. By installing heavy-duty winter wipers and replacing wiper fluid with winter deicing wiper fluid, you can help thwart icing on windshields. If your windows begin to fog up while driving, open them slightly and turn the defroster fan up to a higher speed. Use low beam headlights to improve your visibility and help others see your vehicle.
Snow hypnosis occurs when a driver stares at onrushing snowflakes, causing a trance-like state in which mental alertness diminishes. One of the best ways to avoid becoming hypnotized by snow is to continually scan the road and check your mirrors.
Darkness lasts longer in the winter months and makes it more difficult to judge distances, the speeds of other vehicles and bends in the road. Color recognition and peripheral vision are also compromised. Clear any snow, ice or dirt from your vehicle’s windows, windshield, wipers, mirrors, and lights before leaving and along the way, as needed. Make sure all your lights are properly adjusted so that you can see and be seen.
Glare can be more severe when the ground is covered with snow or ice because light reflects off these bright surfaces. Wear sunglasses, keep your windshield clean and use the visor to help reduce sun glare.
Elevated structures, such as bridges and overpasses, tend to freeze before and remain icy longer than other roadways. Slow down and use extreme caution when approaching and driving on any elevated surface.
Snowplows are slow-moving vehicles that create large clouds of blowing snow which can reduce visibility and conceal the equipment, oncoming traffic or other hazards. Keep well back from snowplows and be patient. Only pass when legally safe to do so and when you can see the entire vehicle and blade.
The dangers of winter driving can appear very suddenly. In virtually every situation, you can reduce the risks if you buckle up, stay alert, keep plenty of space around your vehicle, use gradual movements, and SLOW DOWN! And, remember, if conditions become too risky to drive, pull off the road at the nearest safe place and wait until the situation improves.