An average of 541,000 crashes occur in the United States as a result of winter road conditions, including snow, sleet, ice and slush, according to the U.S. Department of Federal Highway Administration. These crashes result in an average of 146,647 injuries and nearly 2,000 deaths each year.
While winter driving can be more dangerous and challenging than driving during other seasons of the year, you can come through the season safely by applying Ruan’s Megasafe7 Rules of Safe Driving to your everyday commute. By following these 18 Winter Driving Tips, you can keep yourself and others safe this winter!
Megasafe7 Rule 1 – Prepare to Drive
1. Prepare yourself by planning for unexpected delays/emergencies.
- Keep a supply of nonperishable foods in your vehicle
- Carry bottles of water
- Keep blankets on board
- Have a flashlight and batteries
2. Prepare your vehicle for winter conditions.
- Check your tires for proper tire pressure
- Make sure your lights and mirrors are clean and functioning and that you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid
3. Prepare your mind.
- Ensure a winter weather mindset—speed, following distances and reaction times change
- Expect delays
- Slow down. Adjusting your speed for conditions is critical for the safety of yourself and others around you
- Be prepared to drive in the dark as there is less sunshine in winter
4. Prepare your work environment.
- Minimize distractions in your vehicle
- Do not use your cell phone while driving—put it away!
- Clean your windows and mirrors as necessary
Megasafe7 Rule 2 – Expand Your View
5. In winter driving conditions, the more you can see, the better you can plan.
- Do not follow closely behind other vehicles—it blocks your view
- Be able to see ¼ mile or three city blocks ahead
6. Be ready for the unexpected.
- Drivers often panic and stop quickly
- Sudden snow squalls or storms
- Accidents ahead
7. Watch for the unknown.
- Keep your vehicle on pavement and concrete
- Do not run over or drive through snow piles
Megasafe7 Rule 3 – Maintain Proper Following Distance
8. Always maintain a minimum following distance of seven seconds on good, dry roads.
9. More time (up to 14 seconds) is required on wet, snow covered or icy roads.
10. In winter weather, you need three things in order to stay safe:
11. Proper following distance gives you:
- Time to react to quickly changing traffic conditions
- Ease of mind
- The vision you need to make solid decisions
- Space to avoid ice and snow falling from the tops of other vehicles
Megasafe7 Rule 4 – Use Your Mirrors
12. Are your mirrors adjusted properly, clean and mechanically sound?
- Carry window cleaning solution and paper towels
- You may have to clean your mirrors several times each day
13. Proper use:
- While turning, you should be looking in the turning mirror 70 percent of the time, and 30 percent in the opposite mirror
- Scanning pattern: One mirror check every five to nine seconds
- This helps to avoid fatigue, blank stares and distractions
- Gives you 360-degree “sphere of influence”
Megasafe7 Rule 5 – Execute Safe Lane Maneuvers
14. Remember to always use the S.O.S. technique when changing lanes:
- Signal four clicks
- Observe two seconds
- Smooth lane change for you and traffic around you
15. On wet, snow covered, slippery or icy roads, avoid lane changes.
- Could lead to a loss-of-control accident
- Could cause other vehicles around you to brake and lose control
- You need more space and more time
- If you must change lanes, do so gently and give yourself more space to enter into
- Analyze: Do you REALLY need to change lanes? Ask yourself, “Am I outdriving the conditions?” or “Do I need to slow down?”
Megasafe7 Rule 6 – Assess Intersections
16. EXTRA caution is necessary when approaching intersections in winter weather.
- People may intend to stop at an intersection but are unable to due to slippery roads. They may slide through the intersection. Be ready to react!
- You should always be slowing down through an intersection unless you are starting from a stop
- Start the process of stopping at an intersection much earlier than usual
- Be sure to look LEFT – RIGHT – then LEFT again
- When making turns, avoid running over snow piles (Who knows what’s under the pile of snow?)
Megasafe7 Rule 7 – Adjust Speed for Conditions
17. It is not prudent or reasonable to think you can drive at maximum speeds in bad winter weather.
18. You should be slowing down if:
- You do not feel comfortable at the speed you are driving
- You cannot see at least seven seconds ahead of you
- You are in fog or blowing snow
- Your visibility is reduced
- A sheen on the road indicates the possibility of black ice
- Cars ahead of you are slowing
Surviving winter safely means being patient, slowing down, increasing following distance and preparing for the unexpected.
Click here to learn more about Ruan’s Megasafe7 Rules of Safe Driving and our commitment to keeping the roads safe for our drivers and those around them.