What Should I Do to Prepare My Vehicle for Cold Weather?

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Technically, winter does not officially start until December 21, but now is the time that motorists should prepare their vehicles for the colder weather that is around the corner. Winter weather can be unpredictable. A fresh blanket of snow can quickly turn into slush when the temperatures rise, and the sun is shining. As the sun goes down and the temperatures plummet, the slush can become dangerously icy. Although heavy snow may be ideal for the ski slopes, it can cause treacherous driving conditions. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, more than 1,300 people are killed and another 116,800 are injured in car accidents that occurred on snowy, slushy, or icy roads. However, if motorists take proactive steps to ensure that their vehicle has been properly maintained and winterized, they can reduce their risk of being injured in a serious car accident.

How to Winterize a Vehicle

There are some maintenance items that motorists can do themselves, and others that require a professional mechanic, so it is a good idea to plan ahead and schedule any necessary appointments to ensure that a motorist’s vehicle is prepared for the winter weather. Car owners should keep the following checklist in mind when winterizing their car:

  • Check the tire tread. Ideally, tires should be rotated at every oil change. The so-called penny test is an easy way to check a tire’s tread. A penny is inserted in a tread groove of the tire with Lincoln’s head facing the tire. If the top of his head is still visible while in the groove, it is time to replace the tire. Motorists who live in mountain areas that regularly get heavy snow should consider investing in a set of snow tires.
  • Check tire pressure. Underinflated tires can cause a vehicle to react more slowly to steering. Cold temperatures cause the air in the tires to condense, which causes the air pressure to drop. Low air pressure in the tires can be dangerous, particularly when driving on slick, icy roads. A professional mechanic can check the tire pressure and fill the tires if necessary. If the motorist knows how to check tire pressure, he or she can go to a local gas station and fill the tires using an air pump. Some drivers keep an air pump in the vehicle.
  • Change the oil and antifreeze. This will help prevent any car troubles during a winter storm or very cold weather.
  • Make sure that the heater is working properly: Long drives with no heat or getting stuck in a snowstorm with no working heater can be uncomfortable and even unsafe if the car breaks down. A mechanic will be able to check the heater and make any repairs necessary.
  • Check the battery. The cold weather causes a car battery to drain faster. Drivers should make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the cables have been checked. The battery should be replaced as needed.
  • Check the lights. Drivers should make sure that the vehicle’s headlights, taillights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights are working properly.
  • Check windshield wipers. Windshield wipers should be inspected and replaced as necessary. There should plenty of high-quality de-icer in the vehicle’s windshield wiper fluid reservoir.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full. If the car breaks down and runs out of gas, there is no way to keep the car warm while waiting for help to arrive.

How can Motorists Avoid a Car Accident During the Winter?

Snow, ice, and freezing rain can make roadways dangerous during the winter. However, by keeping the following safety tips in mind and using extra caution when driving, motorists can reach their destination safely:

  • Plan for extra travel time. Winter weather can cause unsafe road conditions and slower-moving traffic. Motorists should keep this in mind when traveling. This will reduce the risk of speeding, tailgating, and aggressive driving that some motorists resort to when they are in a rush.
  • Check the weather report. Motorists should always check the local weather, and the weather conditions for where they are traveling. If inclement weather is in the forecast, motorists should avoid travel if possible.
  • Wear a seat belt. Motorists and passengers should always wear a seat belt, particularly when driving in unsafe weather conditions. Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of an injury by over 45 percent.
  • Clear snow or ice off the car. All snow or ice that has accumulated on the should be removed, including the roof, the rear windows, and the windshield. If a large chunk of ice flies off the car while the vehicle is traveling on a busy road or highway, it could hit another car and cause a serious accident. Some states require motorists to remove all snow and ice from their vehicle.
  • Slow down. When roads are snowy or icy, motorists are urged to reduce their driving speed by approximately 10 miles per hour. The faster a car is going, the less reaction time the driver will have and the more likely the car is to skid on ice.
  • Do not use cruise control. Driving during hazardous weather conditions requires a motorist’s full attention at all times. That means maintaining complete control of the vehicle so that the driver can react quickly if the car hits a patch of ice. Cruise control should not be used in bad weather.
  • Watch for black ice. This is thin, transparent ice that looks like the color of the pavement, so it is difficult to see. Oftentimes, motorists do not realize they have hit a patch of black ice until it is too late, and they start to slide over it. Black ice forms more quickly in shady areas, so motorists should slow down when approaching an area with a lot of trees or other shade areas. The best way to handle this situation is to ease up on the gas and the brakes and keep the wheel straight. If the vehicle starts to fishtail, drivers should turn the wheel in the direction that the car is spinning until the car stops or the vehicle has regained traction.
  • Avoid sudden accelerating and decelerating. Either of these could cause the car to go into a tailspin if the roads are wet and slippery. Extra caution must be used on bridges, overpasses, and infrequently traveled roads, as these tend to freeze first.

How Should I Maintain Control of a Vehicle When Roads are Slick?

Drivers often panic when their car hits an icy patch, but the following safety tips can help motorists maintain control of their car and avoid a serious accident:

  • Apply brakes properly. Drivers should avoid hitting the brakes too hard when driving on wet, slippery roads. Pumping the brakes gently can prevent the brakes from locking, which can cause the car to skid. For vehicles with anti-lock brake systems, drivers should not pump the brakes; steady application of the brakes is required.
  • Keep your distance. Motorists should keep a safe distance between their car and the vehicle ahead of them.
  • Clear off ice and snow. Drivers need to keep the windows clear of ice and snow, including the rearview mirrors. Any snow or ice that has accumulated on the headlights or taillights should be removed.
  • Watch your speed. Motorists should reduce driving speed based on the road conditions.

What Should Drivers Do When Involved in an Accident During a Winter Storm?

According to safety officials at The Weather Channel, motorists who get stranded in their vehicles during a winter storm should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Call 911 immediately. The sooner the driver calls for help, the sooner emergency assistance will arrive. It is also important to call for help immediately because some cell phones will turn off automatically when the temperature is too cold.
  • Do not leave the vehicle. Unless there is a safe place to take shelter that is very close by, drivers and passengers should stay in the car until help arrives. The heater can be turned on for brief intervals of time.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Drivers should make sure that the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow or any other debris. The pipe should be cleared out if it appears to be blocked.
  • Make the vehicle visible. The hazard lights should be turned on, and a brightly colored ribbon or piece of cloth should be tied on the antenna.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the car. It is a good idea for drivers to keep an emergency kit in the car at all times, but particularly during the winter, when there is a greater risk of getting stranded. The following items should be included in an emergency kit:

    – Flashlight with extra batteries
    – Emergency flares
    – Rock salt and/or kitty litter to help with traction
    – Ice scraper
    – Shovel
    – Battery-powered radio
    – Extra blankets
    – Bottled water
    – Non-perishable food
    – Extra medications
    – First-aid kit

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Weather-Related Car Accidents

If you were injured in a car accident during inclement winter weather, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with the claims process and ensure that all your questions and concerns are addressed. Our dedicated legal team will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.