Motor vehicle crashes are hard to go through, whether there is an injury or not, it’s a scary situation that we don’t want anyone to have to go through if they can avoid it. Utah weather in the winter is always unpredictable, one minute it’s sunny and the next it’s the snowpocalypse-–even in the best conditions driving in Utah can be stressful. (Don’t forget to use your Blinker;)
Aside from the stress of driving in the winter months, a car crash that includes an injury that you have to file a claim on, is the last thing you want to deal with if you don’t have to. Personal injury claims for motor vehicle accidents require a lot of time to get better, along with ongoing communication with insurance companies, doctors, treatment centers, car dealerships, and more which require a lot of time and tons of paperwork. We want you to be able to enjoy the winter weather and avoid injury, so here are some tips to make your winter commute easier when it is snowy and icy out.
1. Do Your Research on The Weather and Give Yourself Extra Time
Before you check your alarm and take off your glasses, take a quick peek at the next day’s weather forecast. If the conditions are less than desirable, change when you wake up so you can give yourself extra time. This time will help you to not only make it to your destination but also to properly clean off any snow and ice on your car.
This keeps you from that early morning panic where you fail to clear your car and rush to get to work even with the conditions being dangerous. Give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes additional time to make it to work, and an additional 15-20 minutes to warm up and clear off your vehicle.
2. Get a Good Night’s Rest
We never recommend driving when you have not had a decent night’s sleep. The risks associated with driving while tired exceed just falling asleep at the wheel. Those who drive while fatigued are more likely to cause an accident, have poor reaction times, and space off while driving resulting in missed warnings, detachment from the situation and inability to react in an appropriate time to hazards or dangers on the road. Get enough sleep to make sure you are focused and ready to hit the road. Winter is the darkest time of the year, so if you wake up when it’s dark and come home when it’s dark, make sleep a top priority.
3. Clear Your Car Properly
We have all been in the same situation; you walk outside and your car is covered in snow and under that the windows are iced, and you cant get the windshield wipers off the window, but you only have 15 minutes to make it to work. In this situation, it can be tempting to get your front window cleared off and enough visibility to get where we need to go.
It really isn’t safe to drive with an 8.5”x11” slot to see out your front window, even if you are only going to drive a few minutes away. Full visibility is incredibly important when driving so you can fully evaluate your surroundings, not just what is in front of you. Clear off your front and back windows fully, as well as your side windows. So be sure to clean off your front window, your back window, and your side windows and mirrors. Make sure that snow is removed from the hood of the vehicle to avoid blown up snow blocking your visibility, and that it is removed from the roof to avoid it hitting the vehicle behind you. All of these steps will help avoid personal injuries to yourself or to others that are easily preventable.
4. Check Your Tires
The change in temperature, which can oftentimes be quite a dramatic change in Utah, can affect your tire pressure based on how cold or how warm it gets. It’s important to make sure you are checking your tires on a regular basis, whether you have an automated sensor or not. Ensure your vehicles have enough tire pressure and are not under or overfilled to avoid a blowout or traction mishap.
In the winter, we recommend checking them at least once every couple of weeks. So that way you are prepared.
5. Make Sure You’ve Got Gas in The Tank and Your Fluids are Full
Vehicle maintenance is important to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Keeping at least half a tank of gas in your vehicle ensures that your gas line will not freeze and that you can get where you need to go in the event of an emergency. This also ensures that you have enough gas should you get caught at a standstill on the road.
Checking your oil whenever you fill up your gas tank is also important to avoid low oil levels and the possibility of your motor seizing. You can also check your antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels at this time. It is important to keep a full windshield wiper reservoir to use as needed when visibility may be limited. Even basic maintenance will affect your ability to drive safely during the winter.
6. Avoid Using Cruise Control and DO NOT Use That Parking Brake
Cruise control can be a useful tool, and it’s one most of us have become accustomed to, but using cruise control in sketchy weather can have you lose control of your vehicle and delay reaction times. Maintaining control of your vehicle and being able to feel exactly what is happening with your vehicle while you are driving, is the best way to avoid an injury from a crash.
It’s also important that you avoid using your parking break in snowy or icy conditions. The emergency brake is designed to bring you to an almost immediate stop, which will result in a slide, potential overcorrection, and could end in a rollover. Your parking brake will not help you gain more traction and most likely will have the exact opposite effect you are looking for.
It’s better to pump your breaks and slow down way sooner than you think you need to.
7. Always Wear Your Seat Belt
Wearing your seatbelt at all times, regardless of weather conditions is important to your safety and those in your vehicle. Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death in an accident by roughly 45% and people not wearing a seatbelt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle which can result in death or permanent injury or disability. You cannot always avoid an accident and you cannot predict when it will happen, so make sure to always wear your seatbelt to increase the likelihood of you walking away safely or with minor injuries.
Even if you have your seatbelt on, if you are in a crash and you have injuries, be sure to get them looked at by a trusted medical professional here in Utah. Seat belts do not prevent injuries, they can however reduce your risk of death, and severity of injury depending on the circumstances of the crash.
8. Don’t Forget to Pump the Breaks
Icy winter conditions are incredibly difficult to navigate when you’re behind the wheel, but knowing what to do when you lose traction and begin sliding can be the difference between correcting your vehicle and staying on the road or causing an accident and going off of the road.
If you find yourself on icy roads and feel yourself starting to lose traction, begin pumping your breaks. Do not push your brake pedal all the way down but instead create a slight stop-and-go feeling. This will help you to regain traction and avoid them locking due to a parking brake or a heavy stomp on the pedal.
9. Focus on Driving, Nothing Else
It’s hard enough to drive in winter weather without the disruptions of your phone or other activity while driving. Distracted driving (cell phone use, eating, digging through your bag, putting on makeup) is the cause of thousands of deadly accidents every year. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for roughly 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph. That five seconds of distraction spanning that distance leaves an incredible margin for error and one that could take your life or the life of another. Do yourself a favor and keep the distractions down, focus on driving, and keep yourself and others on the road safely.
10. Be Intentional With Your Driving
In ice and snow it is important that you know which direction you need to take should your car start to slide. Paying attention to the speed that is appropriate for the weather conditions you are experiencing is important. Police officers will ticket someone who is driving unsafely in poor weather conditions, even here in Utah.
Be intentional with your driving and know which direction you need to go should your car begin to slide, when you need to slow down or speed up and avoid over correcting and panic when you feel your vehicle lose traction. Where you steer your vehicle will follow. Also, it’s important to remember to drive at the speed you feel most comfortable driving at with the conditions you are dealing with. Don’t worry about those who are flying past you, maintain the speed you feel is safest and keep your eyes on the road. If you are driving significantly under then feel free to turn on your flashers so other drivers know you are driving slowly.
We hope that you have found these driving tips helpful and that you will put them to use this winter. One of the trade-offs for living in this beautiful state is the absolutely horrendous winter weather, and as much as we love seeing our clients, connecting with their story and helping them find justice, we never want anyone to experience pain or suffering when an injury from a car crash could have been avoided.
If you do find yourself in a motor vehicle accident this winter it is important that you see a doctor right away. If you wait too long to see a doctor following a car accident, an insurance company could use that against you by arguing that because you waited so long, your injuries were insignificant or not related to the initial car accident, therefore reducing the amount of compensation you may be entitled to should you have a viable claim.
Here at Johnson Livingston, we take every case seriously, and we are here to fight for your rights and for what you need through your claim and your case. We do not get paid anything unless you win your case, and it’s important to us that you find the right attorney that fits your needs and puts your mind at ease. If you or someone you love was injured, book a free consultation or give us a call at 801-948-9670 and we will get your appointment scheduled.