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Winter Driving Hazards & Safety Tips

Winter weather can be unpredictable, and while Alaskan drivers are no strangers to winter weather conditions, driving in winter weather requires special preparation and skill to ensure safety for both drivers and passengers. In this blog, we will look at some of the most common winter driving hazards as well as provide tips on how to stay safe while on the roads during this time of year.

10 Winter Driving Hazards

Winter roads can be dangerous and full of unexpected hazards for drivers. Here are 10 common winter driving hazards to be aware of:

  1. Black Ice. Black ice is a thin layer of ice on pavement that can appear invisible, particularly on darker roadways. This type of ice can cause vehicles to lose traction very quickly, resulting in loss of control or a skid.
  2. Snow and Slush. Snow and slush on the roads can make them slippery and harder to maneuver due to reduced traction. It can also lead to reduced visibility if it obscures your view of the road ahead.
  3. Fog. Foggy conditions significantly reduce visibility while driving, making it much more difficult to detect potential hazards up ahead.
  4. Ice Buildup. With temperatures below freezing, snow and water droplets left on the car will often freeze into thick layers of ice which can obstruct vision, reduce airflow into the car, and make it difficult to brake safely when needed.
  5. Wind Chill Factor. Sub-zero temperatures combined with strong winds can create dangerously low levels of wind chill factor, increasing the risk of hypothermia or frostbite for those outside for too long or without proper protection from the cold weather.
  6. Debris & Salt on Roadways. Especially after winter storms, roads may be covered in salt or debris left over from snowplows or other vehicles which could lead to tires slipping or skidding suddenly when driven over at high speeds.
  7. Low Tire Pressure from Cold Temperatures. With colder temperatures comes lower air pressure in tires which means they won’t perform as well as they should when braking or cornering sharply in icy conditions.
  8. Faulty Brake Lights & Blurry Headlights. Using faulty brake lights during foggy conditions drastically increases the risk of an accident due to lack of visibility while driving; similarly blurry headlights emit light that isn't bright enough to penetrate fog effectively leading to similar problems with poor visibility while driving at nighttime.
  9. Reduced Visibility at Nighttime. When snow has accumulated on windshields, it might not have been cleared before taking off thus reducing nighttime visibility significantly further increases risks associated with accidents during this time period.
  10. Animals Crossing Roadways. Animals that look for shelter under cars during bad weather can unexpectedly emerge crossing roadways making it difficult for drivers to maintain a safe speed and distance between themselves and other cars.

Winter Driving Safety Tips

Here are a few safety tips that can help you stay safe while driving this winter:

  • Be aware of weather warnings. If there are severe storms or other weather-related issues near you or on your route, you should be aware.
  • Be aware of road closures and unmaintained roads. Before traveling, it can be important to map your route and be aware of roads that may be impassable because of extreme weather conditions or lack of maintenance. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, certain highways are not maintained during the winter months (October-May); these highways include Denali Highway, Denali Park Highway, McCarthy Road, Taylor Highway, Top-of-the-World Highway, and many roads in the Nome area.
  • Prepare your vehicle for winter. In addition to conducting a vehicle check before getting on the road, you should make sure that your vehicle is equipped for winter weather conditions. Do you have provisions in your vehicle? Do you know what your tire pressure is supposed to be? Do you have a spare tire?
  • Slow down. You should not only avoid speeding but should also drive slower than the speed limit.
  • Stay alert. Watch out for wildlife, other vehicles, snow removal equipment, and other hazards. If you are tired, consider not driving or pulling over (if you do drive) to take time and wake up.
  • Do not tailgate. You should leave space to stop or respond to incidents that occur in front of you.

If you are involved in a negligence-based motor vehicle accident this winter, contact the Law Offices of David Henderson via phone (888) 295-6566 for a free consultation.