We’ve been stuck at home for nearly two years. It’s time to let go and enjoy the holidays with family and friends.
But everyone’s exuberance for holiday cheer means more people on the road and more risk for accidents.
With so many people out and about – and our collective lack of driving for almost two years – it’s important to focus on the fact that roads can be slippery and other drivers might not be as cautious.
So here are five ways you can stay safe while getting to your favorite holiday event:
Check your forecasts
First and foremost know what kind of weather you’ll be driving into. Check your favorite weather site or local news to know if it’s going to be icy, snowy, rainy, or just plain cold. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a lot of information on its website. They also have great snow removal systems in place to help keep roads clear and safe for driving. But DO watch your live weather forecasts on your local news stations and check your favorite weather website or app for updates on the latest driving conditions.
Pay close attention to other drivers
Being distracted is one of the top reasons for car accidents. An average of eight people die every day in road accidents in the US, according to the CDC. Keep in mind that weather conditions play a crucial role in these numbers and winter creates even worse conditions – including poor visibility due to weather and shorter daylight hours. Pay attention while driving in winter conditions and don’t get distracted by devices or conversation inside the car even if you have to say, “don’t talk to me right now, I’m trying to stay focused on the road.”
Reduce your speed
Pay attention to your speedometer and remember that you can’t drive as fast as you normally might when you are dealing with poor visibility, snow, rain or sleet, not to mention other drivers. Brakes may not respond as quickly or as well in freezing conditions so try to avoid situations (like tailgating) where you might need to slam your foot down. If you need extra time to get somewhere due to the need for reduced speed simply leave several minutes earlier than you normally wood.
Get your car checked
That pesky winter weather can cause an assortment of issues with your cars. Make sure you’ve changed your oil, replaced fluids – especially windshield wiper fluid – and have your car serviced so that critical parts aren’t wearing out at this troublesome time of year.
You can also follow this basic car maintenance checklist yourself.
Do Not drink and drive
Inclement weather along with the bustling holiday season may be a major temptation for enjoying food and drink. But if you are going to imbibe, hire or designate a driver to transport you from one place to the next. It’s not only your safety you should be concerned about but that of your passengers. Driving under the influence is also illegal and a punishable offense that is a major cause of fatal road accidents. So get a designated (sober) driver so you don’t have to worry that your Christmas cheer is a threat to your well-being and your family’s safety!
What do you do if you hit black ice? God forbid it happens but these are the steps you should take, according to the USDA Forest Service website.
If you do hit black ice – a kind of particularly dangerous dark glossy ice – you must remain calm.
First, do as little as possible and allow your car to pass over the ice.
- Do not hit the brakes, and try to keep the steering wheel straight.
- If you feel the back end of your car sliding left or right, make a very gentle turn of
- the steering wheel in the same direction.
- If you try to struggle against it by steering in the opposite direction, you risk skidding or spinning out so keep any turns gentle.
- Lift your feet off the accelerator completely and keep your steering wheel fixed in the position it’s in. Slowing down will give you more control.
- Do not touch the brakes. Doing so will likely cause you to skid. The idea is to slide over the ice in the direction the steering wheel is facing; usually, black ice patches aren’t longer than 20 feet.