In Idaho, driving in the winter can be a risky venture, especially for those who are new to the area and might not be used to driving on icy roads. Whether you’re an experienced winter time driver, or you’re just visiting and have never even seen a snowflake, here are some of the best Idaho winter driving safety tips.
Prepare your car for winter driving season.
In Idaho, we can see some extremely fierce winter driving conditions. These vary greatly, depending on whether you’re driving in the mountains near Stanley or McCall, or if you’re down in the Treasure Valley in Canyon, or Ada Counties, where the roads are generally, pretty well-maintained.
Though the Boise area has experienced a few mild winters for the last couple of years, the capital city is no stranger to extreme amounts of snowfall. (Remember the “Snowpocalypse” of 2016-2017)? That being the case, it is always a good idea to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst when it comes to winter weather. This is especially true when it comes to making sure your car is prepared for the cold weather and slippery roads. So when you’re decorating your home for the holidays, please remember to take some of that time and prepare your car for safety during the winter driving season.
Get some snow tires. Snow tires give drivers better traction on snow-packed and icy roads. While they allow your car to maneuver on slush, snow and ice, they will not make your car invincible to slick and slippery roads. Snow tires definitely help, but if the roads are slick you still need to give yourself ample room and time to slow-down before you come to a stop.
Check your car’s engine. Cold winter months create less than ideal conditions for your car’s engine. It is a good idea to have your car serviced by a local car shop or dealership before going out on the winter roads. You should at least check the engine oil and coolant/anti-freeze mixture to make sure your car can handle the cold temperatures. You certainly don’t want your car breaking down in the middle of winter! Also, keeping up with oil changes and proper maintenance helps your car respond better to the winter driving conditions.
Fill-up your windshield wiper fluid. If you take your car to an oil-change station, or dealership they will likely fill your wiper fluid as part of their routine service. If you’re unsure, just ask, or you can fill it yourself with washer fluid. Most popular brands are already mixed with antifreeze, which will make sure it works when you need it. Sand and dirt on the road will get onto your windshield, especially in the winter and you’ll need a clear view of the road ahead when you’re behind the wheel.
Make a winter survival kit to keep in your vehicle. It is always a good idea to keep a first aid kit in your vehicle, no matter what time of the year it is. For a winter survival kit, we recommend adding a blanket, some extra warm clothes, a shovel and some water and non-perishable snacks, just in case you get stuck somewhere for a long period of time. In extremely cold weather, this could be a life-saver.
In case you get stuck, a bag of sand, salt, or even cat litter can help you get some extra traction in ice or packed snow. Other items can come in handy, during all seasons, such as: cellphone chargers, jumper cables, traffic flares and an battery-operated or hand-crank powered radio are all good things to have in case of an emergency.
Before driving, make sure your car is completely clear of snow and ice.
De-ice your windshield, windows and all mirrors. Before your car even moves, you should always make sure you can see out of all windows. If this is your first winter in Idaho, you will definitely need an ice scraper in your car from at least November until March. It’s not just your windows though! Make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of any snow and ice, not only so you can see, but so other vehicles can see you as well.
Clear snow build up from your engine hood and the top of your vehicle. If there is a large buildup of snow on the top of your car or on the hood, it’s essential to sweep this off with a brush or broom. This will help prevent snow and ice from flying onto your windshield while driving, improving your visibility. Having a lot of excess snow on your roof can fly off and hit the other cars behind you. This can cause car wrecks, which can result in personal injury and even death.
To see some examples of damaged vehicles from snow flying off the roof of another car: click here.
Know how to control your vehicle while in a skid.
Making sudden movements with your vehicle can cause you to lose control on icy roads. Knowing how to drive in the event of a skid is something we don’t necessarily get to practice very often. Growing up, I was taught to basically not make any sudden movements with the car while on slick roads. This means, don’t slam on your brakes, suddenly turn the wheel or accelerate/decelerate too fast. Any sudden movement can result in the automobile sliding in the direction of its original momentum. Down-shifting or using your engine brake can help you slow down incrementally without having to rely so much on your brakes.
Give yourself plenty of time to stop. Always leave more room between you and the car in front of you. The more the better. You don’t know when another car may suddenly stop or even lose control. Be aware that your car will not stop as fast as it does on dry, normal road conditions. If you see cars in front of you slowing down, or that a red light is coming up, be sure you have plenty of room to come to a complete stop.
Don’t use your cruise control on icy roads.
Cruise control on icy roads is never a good idea. Cruise control is great when the weather conditions permit its use, but it can slow your reaction time to obstacles, or if your vehicle loses control on the slick road. If you lose traction on the road while your cruise control is on, your wheels will continue to spin, which will result in a complete loss of control of your automobile.
Avoid distractions, maintain absolute focus on the road and other drivers around you.
We all know that distracted driving is dangerous. We also know that texting while driving can be deadly and winter driving conditions can make these types of distractions infinitely more dangerous. In 2016, Idaho was the fourth most deadly state for winter driving conditions in the nation. Icy roads, poor visibility and the potential for losing control of your vehicle due to black ice or heavy snow leaves zero room for distracted driving. Texting, talking on the phone, drowsy driving or impaired driving severely affects a driver’s coordination, reaction time and the ability to concentrate on the road ahead. Doing any of these things will severely place risks on not only your own safety, but also the safety of everyone around you.
Last, but not least, slow down.
This is the easiest and yet, most important one of them all. Simply slowing down, in general can help prevent a lot of accidents on wet, icy or snow-covered roads. Exercising the proper amount of caution when on winter roads can literally save lives. Who knows, the life you save may be your own.
At Caldwell Law Group, PLLC, we handle all sorts of personal injury claims, from automobile and semi-truck accidents, slip and fall cases and worker’s compensation claims. We offer a free initial consultation, so there’s never a need to worry about money when you’re deciding how to proceed with a personal injury claim. We have fought to ensure the rights of hard-working Idahoans for decades. If you have been injured in an accident, please don’t hesitate to call us.
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