Making it home: Safety key from road, house

Courtesy of 86th Airlift Wing Safety Office

Going home at the end of the day is a welcomed experience for most people after a busy day, but without the right precautions, driving can be hazardous during the winter months. Vehicle accidents increase at an alarming rate during colder weather because many drivers fail to compensate for the increased driving hazards created by sleet, ice and snow.

Good winter driving safety practices can prevent most of these accidents, getting people from the road to the house in one piece.

Severe weather conditions pose a big threat to drivers. Traction on slippery roads will only be as good as the vehicle’s tires, so make sure they have adequate tread. You have a better chance of weathering the storm if you use snow tires. Brakes should be checked and adjusted if necessary. Check your exhaust system for leaks, too. Driving with the windows closed in cold weather could mean disaster if your exhaust is faulty.

For drivers with little or no winter driving experience, it’s highly recommended to practice accelerations and stops prior to being exposed to heavy road traffic. An empty, wide open area, such as a parking lot, is ideal for this type of practice.
Don’t speed — In basic terms, don’t drive faster than conditions safely allow. Remember, the distance needed to stop on ice or snow is three to 12 times greater than the distance required to stop on dry pavement.

Plan ahead — Look out for sudden slowing of traffic and pedestrians crossing the street. Plan your stops and slow down well in advance. Thinking ahead is the best way to make your stops are safe. Slow down gradually, and be especially careful when you approach an intersection. All the traffic starting and stopping polishes the snow and ice, increasing the hazard. You can’t stop on a dime on ice or snow.

To avoid a collision when being followed by another car, start your braking action sooner and signal well in advance to allow the other driver time to know your intentions. Communicating with other drivers by using the stop lights and turn signals properly is a very important tool to prevent rear end collisions. When following, don’t tailgate. Give yourself extra stopping distance.

If you suddenly find yourself on an icy patch of roadway, don’t panic. Just ride it out with no abrupt change in direction, speed or braking. If your transmission is standard, depress the clutch to remove the drag on the drive wheels. If it is automatic, slip the selector into the neutral position. Stay away from the brake. Locking your brakes will certainly cause a skid; maintaining rolling traction is better.

The best thing you can do to decrease your chances of being involved in an accident is to plan ahead. Look beyond the car immediately ahead and try to determine and anticipate what other drivers will be doing and how it will affect you. Always be on the lookout for hazardous situations as they develop so you can plan your reaction before it is required. If you are involved in an accident, wearing your seat belt could be the tie breaker that keeps you alive.

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