• By: Hank Stout
  • Published: November 2019
How to Be a Safe Driver in Ice and Snow

Winter is right around the corner for Texas, and with it comes the cold weather. As the Lone Star State begins to experience colder weather, adverse weather conditions become more prevalent. 

Among all the conditions, Texas faces two common winter road hazards: ice and snow. While the vast majority of most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall: 70% on wet pavement and 46% during rainfall, a much smaller percentage of weather-related crashes occur during winter conditions: 18% during snow or sleet, 13% occur on icy pavement and 16% of weather-related crashes take place on snowy or slushy pavement (ops.fhwa.dot.gov).

It’s important to stay vigilant on the road, no matter what season. To help you prepare for an accident-less winter, here is how you can be a safer driver between the months of November to January, as courtesy from Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm. 

Prep Your Vehicle

The first thing to know before you head out on the ice or snow is whether or not your car can handle the unknown terrain. Because Texas isn’t used to weather conditions lower than fifty degrees, attempting to drive in the ice and snow may be a challenge you can’t feat. 

If, however, you need to head out in inclement weather, here are some of the ways you can prepare your vehicle before you hit the ice or snow. 

Check your battery, brakes, and cables

Cold weather can be fatal to your every day, yet important, car functions. If not serviced, you could be stranded in the cold for a time until a technician can come look at it.

With that being said, make sure to install a new battery if you can before winter, check your brakes, and even add antifreeze to your cooling system. A 50/50 or 70/30 ratio of antifreeze to water is recommended.

Switch to winter tires

Winter tires may be the most important thing to consider before the winter hits, maybe even more important than installing a new battery.

While Houston doesn’t get ice or snow as most northern states do, it’s better to be safe than sorry. There are tires designed specifically for inclement weather. Regular all-season tires harden due to the rubber compounding in the cold, which decreases the tire’s ability to grip the road. Winter tires use special compounds that resist that hardening.  

To get cold-weather durable tires, stop by your local auto shop and ask for Blizzak winter tires. 

Install winter wipers

Unlike normal wipers, winter wipers come with rubber that prevents ice from sticking to the blades. This will be extremely useful in the coming months when ice forms on your windshield.

In addition, make sure to lift up your wipers before you head inside for the evening. This will prevents ice forming on your wipers and causing them to be stuck on the windshield. 

Check tire pressure

With every 10 degree drop, your tires may gain or lose 1 PSI. Make sure to constantly check your tire pressure and refill them with air whenever possible. 

Practice Safety Driving Techniques

Once your car is prepped for the winter roads, it’s important to remember to practice defensive driving. With ice and snow, however, there are extra precautions drivers need to take to avoid fatal collisions. 

Fill up frequently

Keep the gas tank at least half full if you can! A full tank reduces condensation, and weather conditions may leave you somewhere you shouldn’t, or worse, stranded. It’s best to have a full engine if a dire situation occurs. 

However, if you are stranded and need warmth, make sure to turn your car on and off periodically so as to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Drive slowly

It’s important to reduce speed on ice and snow-covered roads. For these kinds of roads, leave a following distance of up to 10 seconds instead of the usual 3-4 seconds. 

In addition, apply pressure to gas and brakes as gently as possible to avoid lurching, skidding, or other dangers. Loss of traction, and losing control, is the last thing you want while driving on ice or snow-covered roads.

Steering on Ice and Snow, Avoid Braking

In addition with driving slowly, steering should be accounted for carefully, as well. And quick movement, even slight, can result in understeering and oversteering. 

Oversteering is when the rear tires lose grip and the rear of the car swings out. If this happens, you must steer in to the skid and gently accelerate in order to regain control. Do not brake. 

Understeering is when the front tires slide, resulting in a front wheel skid. To regain control, don’t slam on the brakes, simply take your foot off the accelerator and slowly turn the wheel into a straight position. 

Don’t Power Up Hills, Inertia before Going Up a Hill

Applying extra gas may result in understeering, oversteering, or a tire spin. Before you head up a hill, speed up gradually then use that inertia to carry you up. Once you reach the top, reduce your speed and use that inertia to go down.

In addition, it’s important to not stop while going up a hill. Keep gradual speed while going up and down the hill. 

Additional Tips

Pack an emergency winter safety kit

Packing a winter safety kit may come in handy if you are stranded or lost out in the ice and snow. Packing things in your trunk like a first aid kit, outerwear, flares, matches, ice scrapers, jumper cables, antifreeze, and sand can be the one thing that will save you out in these colder conditions.

Don’t use cruise control

Cruise control is safe for dry weather, but when it comes to ice and snow, it’s best to leave the driving up to you and not the vehicle. Make sure you are in control of your vehicle at all times, and to practice not using cruise control while on the icy or snowy roads.

Car Accident Lawyers, Sutliff & Stout

If, however, you end up being in a car accident despite all this precaution, contact Houston car accident lawyers, Sutliff & Stout. At Sutliff & Stout our personal injury attorneys are guided by a singular belief: That access to competent legal representation is a fundamental right. If you or a loved has been seriously injured, we want to help.

If you happen to find yourself in an accident while driving on ice or snow-covered roads, don’t hesitate to contact us at (713) 987-7111 or send us an email to discuss your car accident injury case.

https://www.bridgestonetire.com/tread-and-trend/drivers-ed/how-to-winterize-a-car

https://www.bridgestonetire.com/tread-and-trend/drivers-ed/winter-driving-tips

ops.fhwa.dot.gov

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About the Author

Hank Stout is a founding partner at Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm. Hank earned his doctor of jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law and has been actively trying personal injury cases for over ten years. He was recognized by Thompson Reuters as a Rising Star from 2012-2014 and has been recognized as a Super Lawyer since 2014 (a distinction given to less than 1% of the lawyers in the state of Texas). He has earned a Superb rating by Avvo, and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To learn more, read Hank's full bio here.

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