During a time of unpredictable events, the one tradition all Illinois residents can count on is winter and the harsh conditions that come with it. The change in season brings weather events that leave behind snow and ice. Whether they are commuting to work, running errands, or visiting family living far away, drivers throughout the state face the significant hazards that accompany inclement winter events and the accidents that come with the season.
Tires play an important role in motor vehicle safety. Yet, they are often overlooked. Cold weather, in particular, can reduce tire pressure to dangerous levels. Over time, tread wear reduces the traction. Making matters worse is poor wheel alignment that creates inconsistency in the amount of tread on each wheel that is necessary for safe travel.
With gas prices remaining relatively low compared to previous years, keeping the tank full is not just more affordable but essential when driving in the cold. A half-tank may seem economical for those on a budget, but the limits in moisture can do damage, particularly during traffic jams or stuck in the snow.
Acceleration and braking
Lighter touches on the accelerator are important. “Putting the pedal to the metal” on snow and ice impeded forward motion, including for drivers who have four-wheel drive cars. Once moving, adapting speed to the environment is essential. Driving slower can prevent a catastrophic accident where tires lose grip, affecting acceleration, turns, and, most importantly, braking.
When a driver can effectively brake, the stop should allow for a certain amount of distance to provide extra room and reduce the possibility of a read-end accident. If a car is without antilock braking systems, drivers can put themselves and their passengers in danger of locking brakes.
Safe defensive driving
Working brakes and fully inflated tires and gas tanks are only as effective as the driver’s operation of a car. Simply put, driving in winter and driving in warmer months are vastly different. Keeping a safe distance from snowplows and other drivers is paramount when cold weather leaves ice and snow on roads.
Driving in inclement weather requires great care and fast decision-making. While you can’t control fellow drivers traveling dangerously, the right choices you make before and during travel can keep you and your loved ones safe when the weather outside, not to mention the traffic, is “frightful.”