Driving in snow and ice requires quick reflexes, patience and a little bit of know-how.
If you can’t avoid driving in wintry conditions, make sure you and your vehicle are both ready for the challenge. Also, try to time your trip so that you follow snowplows and ice/sand trucks rather than leading the way.
What to do after an auto accident
First things first — make sure you're safe. Here are a few things to do after that (you may want to print out a copy of this checklist and store it in your glove compartment, just in case):
- Check on yourself and your passengers (take note of any injuries and the severity).
- Call 911 and follow their instructions.
- Abide by all posted signs (for example, if you notice any accident investigation sites nearby, ask 911 operators if you should go there).
- Watch for oncoming traffic when you exit your vehicle
- If you have safety flares or cones, place them around the accident site (if it is safe to do so). This is especially important at night or when there’s limited visibility.
- If you don’t have safety flares or cones, consider adding them to your car’s emergency kit.
- Take photos of the accident area (including all vehicles involved).
- Take photos of the damage to your car and the other cars involved, including the license plates (turn on your time/date stamp options in your phone settings, if applicable).
- Do not admit fault (even if you think it might be your fault).
- File a police report and note the case number (ask for a copy, too).
- Stick to the facts with the police and with all insurance personnel. Don’t volunteer extra information or opinions.
- Remember that an out-of-state accident might affect your insurance coverage (if it’s an at-fault versus no-fault state, for example).
- Depending on the accident, consider consulting a lawyer specializing in auto claims.
Once the incident is safely under control, call in the claim, which will establish the date of record.
Be prepared to explain the facts and have as many pictures to document the incident as possible. You’ll want to know:
- The make and model of the covered vehicle involved
- Who was driving
- The location and date/time of the accident
- The weather at the date/time of the accident (bright sun, hail, fog, etc.)
- A description of what happened and the severity of the damage
- The names and insurance information of all drivers involved
- The names and contact information of everyone involved, including witnesses
If you have a dashcam, this information can help determine who's at fault (many dashcams automatically upload footage to your cloud account when you set up the system).
Again, we hope you never need this checklist, but it's important information to have just in case. And remember: We're always here to help if you have any questions or need additional information.
Do you have the right tires?
Worn tires are particularly dangerous on slippery roads. You may want to consider winter tires if you live in an area where driving in ice and snow is a regular occurrence rather than simply a once-in-a-while event.
According to Edmunds, winter tires are specially designed to stay pliable and grippy at lower temperatures but need to be replaced far sooner than standard tires: They “have lost almost all of their capability” when they are down to a tread depth of 6/32-inch.
Here are 15 winter driving tips to keep in mind:
- Take a few minutes to fully clear your car of ice and snow before starting off. Not only will you have better visibility, but it’s also the law in some places. Motorists have been seriously hurt and even killed in accidents caused by chunks of ice and snow flying off other vehicles at high speeds.
- Drive slowly and leave yourself enough room to safely stop. Increase your following distance to six to eight seconds. Also, don't try to beat out yellow lights.
- Use low gears to maintain traction, especially on hills.
- Don't use overdrive or cruise control on icy roads.
- Don't pass snowplows or sand trucks. Take extra care when passing other vehicles on wintry roads.
- Keep your windshield clean and make sure your windshield washer system has ample anti-icing fluid. Before you start your trip, make sure the fluid jets aren’t blocked and that your wipers aren’t frozen to the windshield.
- Defog the inside of your windows by running your air conditioner. You should choose the fresh-air option rather than recirculated air.
- Even during daylight hours, drive with your lights on to increase your visibility. Make sure your headlights and taillights are clean and clear of snow.
- Brake carefully to prevent skidding. If you feel your wheels starting to lock up, gently ease off the brakes rather than slamming down on them.
- Watch out for black ice — a thin, slippery glaze that can make the road appear merely wet or even totally clear and dry, depending on the light.
- Stay in your lane, especially when visibility is poor.
- Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses, off-ramps, shady spots and infrequently traveled roads, which tend to freeze first (refer to the black ice warning above).
- Train yourself to respond properly to skids: If you begin to slide, turn into the direction your rear wheels are sliding. If the back end of your vehicle is sliding to the right, for example, turn your steering wheel to the right. Don’t overcompensate or attempt sudden swerves.
- Keep your gas tank topped up in the wintertime to reduce the amount of water vapor that could potentially condense and sink into your fuel pump and fuel lines. This can block fuel flow to the engine.
- Don’t get overconfident. Even if you drive a lot in poor conditions and have a car with 4-wheel drive and snow tires, accidents still happen. Safe winter drivers must remain alert at all times.
Make sure you have the right insurance to protect you and your vehicle
Before you venture out in adverse weather, know the steps you can take to help make sure you arrive at your destination safely. Also, make sure your auto insurance is up to date. Talk to your insurance agent about your current coverage and discuss any recommended changes to help protect your vehicle (and wallet) from winter hazards.
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