While it may be a too little too late, be advised that the latest spate of winter weather has caused thousands of traffic accidents throughout Maryland and the rest of the east coast. Car and truck crashes have accounted for numerous injury accidents over the past couple months in cities like Frederick, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. As a Baltimore auto injury accident lawyer, my concern is that driving conditions will continue to exacerbate what can be serious automobile and commercial truck wrecks throughout the area.
There are, of course, proper techniques to drive in snowy and icy road conditions. Although no amount of training can guarantee an accident-free commute, applying some tips from driver training organizations can go a long way toward improving one’s chances of arriving at a destination without serious injury.
Already, through the 2010 calendar year, the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) reportedly had a number of driving instructors who trained more than 8,000 students in the important skill of operating a motor vehicle. Even with this practical knowledge, however, many new drivers have had little or no experience with piloting a vehicle through snow, ice and sleet conditions.
While some students are “lucky” enough to have taken a driver’s ed class during the winter months, and thus received hands-on experience maneuvering a car through ice and snow, their numbers are few, according to experts. While most new drivers are schooled mainly in the art of changing lanes and merging into busy expressway traffic, most are unprepared for executing those same maneuvers when visibility is limited and road grip is greatly reduced by a coating of snow or ice.
For those who need a refresher course, here a few tips for winter driving from CSM’s driving instructors:
1) When stuck in snow, avoid spinning your wheels, which only melts the snow and turns it into ice. Use the lowest possible transmission gear and apply the accelerator gently. If your driver wheels start to spin again, let up on the gas and try again once the wheels have ceased spinning. When all else fails, call someone for assistance.
2) When trying to stop on ice, most drivers will try to hit the brakes hard to avoid a traffic collision. However, cars are very hard to stop on an icy roadway. The best approach for avoiding a crash in icy conditions is to lift your foot off of the accelerator pedal. Then, without braking, attempt to steer around the problem.
3) When a vehicle begins to slide sideways (a scenario known as “fish tailing”) try to steer the vehicle in the direction of the slide. For example, when a car’s read end is sliding to the right, the driver should turn the steering wheel to the right. Turning in the direction of the skid will usually cause the car to straighten out and allow the driver to regain control. Most experts agree that drivers should direct their gaze in the direction they want the vehicle to go — don’t look at what you are trying to avoid.
4) Always leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles especially those in fornt of you. Rear-end traffic accidents are typically the end result of driving too close to another car’s rear bumper. Experts suggest that drivers allow for at least four seconds between their vehicle and the car ahead on the expressway. In rainy conditions add a couple more seconds to your following distance and reduce your speed accordingly.
5) Follow in the tracks of the cars ahead of you and try not to change lanes when heavy snow is coating the roadway. Doing so can cause a loss of control.
Finally, during the winter season it’s always a good idea to keep several items with you in case of trouble. A bag of kitty litter or sand in your truck can come in handy if you get stuck; you can put some under the tires for traction. A little water, some snacks and a blanket can be lifesavers if your vehicle goes off the road in a remote area. Plus, windshield washer fluid, window ice scraper, snow shovel, jumper cables and a tow strap are also items that can make the difference between a safe commute and a miserable or possibly life-threatening experience.
CSM’s Expert Instructors Give Driving Tips for Winter Travel, SoMD.com, December 17, 2010