Last night my wife and I were watching the evening news when a follow up about a horrible traffic accident was aired. Some died, others would face permanent injuries. The driver would have to live with guilt for the rest of their life. I’m sure if the driver had a second chance, if they were sent back in time, they would make a wiser choice. But we don’t get second chances after the fact. So, rather than ignore the possible consequences because you have to be somewhere at some specific time. Slow down and don’t do something you’ll regret.

How Large is the Problem?

Weather in American can be dangerous. There are hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires. However, all these combined aren’t as deadly as a snowflake. According to the USDOT Federal Highway Administration data “…an average of 1,836 deaths and 136,309 injuries per year due to snowy and icy roads [1]. These figures represent the 10-year average between 2005 and 2014.” Snow covered, Icy and patchy roads are dangerous.

Avoid These Deadly Mistakes

 Not Adjusting Your Driving

Don’t drive like you do on dry pavement. Slow down, back off, and take your time. No vehicle is immune to slick pavement. It doesn’t matter if you have anti-lock brakes with traction control on a four-wheel drive, once you start to slide all vehicles are equal. Whether you’re driving a sports car or a 53-foot tractor-trailer if you lose control, you’re in trouble. So, adjust your driving to fit the conditions, don’t change lanes quickly, if there’s a snow plow stay six car lengths behind it. Do not pass, and take a deep breath relax, and take your time.

Forget about where you have to be and consider that getting there alive is more important than getting their fast. “You’re late for a meeting, so you’re going a little over the speed limit—you’ve driven on snow covered and icy roads all your life, besides, your SUV can handle this weather. You just wish those darn trucks would speed up or get out of the way. Don’t they know you’re in a hurry? Probably better call ahead and let the team know you’ll be late or send a text. When you put it that way it seems crazy doesn’t it? But the truth is this happens anytime there’s inclement weather. Ignoring hazardous road conditions often does NOT end well.” — Sharing the Winter Roads with Trucks

Not Preparing

Unless you live as a hermit in the woods, snow and ice storms don’t sneak up on you. You know they’re coming. So, fill up your tank, top off your windshield wiper solvent, and check your other fluids. Every year we see stranded motorists on the evening news so carry a snow emergency kit. “Preparing for roadside contingencies before they happen can save your life. Planning ahead only takes a little time and a few dollars. The items in this emergency kit aren’t extravagant, expensive, or important—until they’re needed—then they’re invaluable.” —  Winter Driving Emergency Kit. 

Making certain your vehicle is ready for the road includes removing snow and ice not only from the windshield but from all the glass, the mirrors, and the body of the vehicle. Sheets of snow and ice blowing off hoods and tops is dangerous as well as a ticketable offense in many states. Carry an ice scraper that also has a snow brush and leave it in your car or truck.

Having the Wrong Mindset

The wrong mindset can be trepidation, overconfidence, or even panic. For example, let’s say you’re driving along just fine when you hit a patch of ice on a bridge and begin to slide. Do not panic. Don’t make any sudden adjustments, don’t brake, don’t accelerate, and don’t turn into the slide. Stay calm, let off the gas, and keep your wheel turned in the direction you want to go.

Overconfidence can be just as dangerous, if not more so. When drivers are overconfident, they take chances. It’s never okay to drive distracted but especially in inclement weather. Turn off your phone, put both hands on the wheel, and drive. No text or call is more important than driving. No communication is so urgent that it cannot wait. Texting from the grave is difficult.

Please Avoid These Deadly Mistakes 

If you want to put the odds in your favor, then before you get behind the wheel on a snowy or icy day have the right mindset. Remind yourself that caution and safety trump urgency and time. Like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared, be sure you have what you need to survive stuck in an ice storm, and that your vehicle is ready to take on the challenge. And lastly but most importantly adjust your driving, slow down, stay in your lane, and never tailgate – there is no acceptable reason to do so. Oh, and one last thing, please don’t drive under the influence. Remember inclement weather driving accounts for more than 1800 deaths per year. Don’t become one of the statistics.

Photo by Francois Olwage on Unsplash