Slippery road conditions cause a rise in accidents in the winter months, and while those incidents are covered under normal automobile insurance, a few simple steps can minimize the chance you’ll need to make a claim at all.
Heed weather warnings: If a storm is coming, think carefully before you get on the road. If it can wait, stay home.
Slow down: When driving conditions are affected by snow and ice, take extra time when accelerating, slowing down, and turning, and allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so you won’t be rushing.
Give them some space: The usual guideline is to allow 3-4 seconds of stopping distance between you and the driver ahead of you. If you’re driving on slick roads, double or triple that buffer to give yourself plenty of room to stop.
Clean off the snow: Iced-over windows? Snow piled on the roof of your car? Resist the urge to clear just enough to let you see. Not only is it dangerous to drive with snow and ice covering your car and windows, it’s illegal. In Connecticut, uncleared snow and ice on your car can cost you $120, and an obstructed view can result in a $92 fine.
Don’t over-rely on 4WD or AWD: Four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) can provide extra traction when driving in snow and ice, but you can still slip, skid and lose control, so continue to exercise care when driving in poor conditions.
Don’t use cruise control: When you’re driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads, keeping your speed constant with cruise control is a bad idea. If you hit a patch of ice or a wheel loses traction, you can quickly lose control.
Check your tires: Make sure your tires have an adequate amount of tread to handle winter conditions and are inflated to the recommended pressure.
Know your brakes: You might have learned to “pump the brakes” when driving on ice to prevent them from locking up, but many newer cars have anti-lock brakes (ABS), which are designed to prevent your wheels from locking up, thus preventing skidding and allowing you to maintain steering control. If you have ABS brakes and you need to stop quickly on a slippery road surface, apply steady and constant pressure and do not lift your foot until you’re stopped.
Winter weather and your car can be a dangerous combination. Take these key precautions and be safe out there.