Driving in the winter can come with unique risks and hazards, such as slush on the pavement and black ice. Depending on the weather conditions where you are driving, you may encounter a snowstorm, sleet or heavy fog. Preparing your vehicle and yourself for a wintertime drive can mean the difference between getting into a car accident and arriving at your destination unscathed. If the weather is bad enough to make you nervous or lead to traffic advisories, stay home.

How to Drive in Snow and Icy Roads

Severe winter weather can lead to dangerous road conditions and heavy traffic congestion. Even if you are confident in your winter weather driving capabilities, the drivers sharing the road with you may find it difficult to control their vehicles – increasing your crash risk. If the weather looks bad, only drive if necessary. If you must drive, follow a few key tips to help prevent a car accident or emergency.

  • See a mechanic. If you know you will be going on a long road trip for the winter holidays, get your car serviced beforehand. Ask a mechanic to check for common issues such as low fluids, leaks, worn-down hoses or other parts in need of repairs.
  • Reduce your speed. Traveling too fast for conditions is a common cause of wintertime car accidents. Drive slower than you normally would through snowy or icy conditions. Give yourself plenty of time to come to stops. Brake and accelerate slowly.
  • Go slow and steady. If you can avoid coming to a full stop, do so. This will take less inertia for your vehicle to get going again, reducing the risk of spinning wheels. Do not power up hills, but do not stop while going uphill, either.
  • Increase your following distance. Increase your following distance to 8 to 10 seconds rather than the average 3 to 4 seconds on icy roads. Giving yourself more time to stop in icy conditions to help prevent rear-end collisions.
  • Pack an emergency kit. Prepare for emergencies, such as getting stuck in a snowstorm, by bringing a kit that contains water, nonperishable food items, blankets, a battery-powered radio, batteries, a phone charger, a flashlight, a snow shovel and jumper cables.

Always check the weather before you head out. Know what to expect on the roads and the route that will get you to your destination the safest. Tell others where you will be driving, what route you are taking and your estimated arrival time. If you get stuck in the snow, stay with your vehicle and tie something bright to the top of your antenna for better visibility. Use your emergency kit to shovel out of the snow or stay where you are until help arrives.

Winter Car Accident Statistics

With a higher risk of auto accidents comes a greater number of crashes each winter. Annual weather-related crash statistics from the Department of Transportation show a 10-year average of 1,235,145 auto accidents in the U.S, with 418,005 injuries and 5,376 deaths. Bad weather contributes to over one-fifth (21%) of all motor vehicle crashes each year in the U.S. Statistically, certain types of bad weather are more dangerous for drivers than others.

  • Wet pavement (70% of weather-related crashes)
  • Rain (46%)
  • Snow or sleet (18%)
  • Snow or slushy pavement (16%)
  • Icy pavement (13%)
  • Fog (3%)

Together, snow, sleet, and slushy and icy pavement caused 562,182 motor vehicle crashes as a 10-year average from 2007 to 2016. Wintertime weather accidents caused 138,735 injuries and 1,705 deaths in this timeframe. Winter precipitation can contribute to a lack of visibility, lane obstruction, traffic flow congestion, poor vehicle performance and all-around increased accident risk. Be cautious when driving in any type of winter weather. When in doubt, sit it out – stay home instead of trying to drive in sleet or snow. If a negligent driver caused your crash, contact a car accident attorney to hold them responsible for your injuries and/or property damage.