While it may not seem like it, Texas does have severe winter weather driving conditions. As driving in the winter is dangerous and often unpredictable, it’s important to know what driving challenges you might face in the winter. The following are some winter driving dangers and tips that will help make your drive as safe as possible.
Driving on Snow-Covered Roads
When you’re driving on an icy or snow-covered road, it is important to drive with extra care. Remember that getting to your destination five minutes earlier is not worth your life, the life your passengers, or the life of those sharing the road with you. Below are just a few of the dangers you may encounter while driving in the winter.
- Limited visibility (fog, rain, snow, vehicle spray)
- Loss of tire traction, which makes it harder to steer
- Standing water in the road
- Patches of ice on the road, especially black ice
- Snow being blown or plowed in your direction
- Infrastructure damage
- The cold
It will be harder to drive in such conditions and the best defense is to limit your traveling as much as possible. However, if you must get on the road, we recommend you follow these following safety driving tips:
Speed limits are based on normal driving conditions; therefore, they are not always safe when driving in the winter. If there is water, snow, or ice on the road, you will want to slow down. If you take a turn too sharply, you risk spinning or sending your car into a slide. If you are driving too fast, you may not be able to brake in time to avoid hitting another vehicle or pedestrian.
Accelerate slowly and break slowly
For the same reasons, you should drive slower, accelerating slower, and breaking slower to help compensate for the lost tire friction and help prevent you from spinning, sliding, or crashing your car.
Tailgating in normal driving conditions is a bad idea. Tailgating in the winter is begging for an accident. If you’re tries are wet, if the road is wet, or if there is ice or snow on the road, your tire traction is reduced. This means it can take you much longer to brake or avoid hitting the car in front of you if they suddenly brake or start to slide.
Don’t crowd a snowplow
The TxDOT snowplow is there to help clear the roads and make them safer for all Texas drivers. They may run a little slower, but that is no reason to misbehave if you get stuck behind one. It’s important to remember that the Texas Department of Transportation (Texas DOT) recommends you maintain a distance of 200 feet from the snowplow. This is because the driver of the plow cannot always see behind him or her. The driver could back up at any moment and, if you’re too close, the drive could be backing into your car. It is also unwise to drive past a snowplow’s snow cloud, especially since TxDOT snowplow operators will pull over to let some traffic by periodically.
Bridges, ramps, and overpasses
These structures tend to freeze first, so drive with extra care on them if the weather is near, at, or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The cold itself is dangerous, as it can cause frostbite and problems with your car, if you get stuck on the side of the road. The best way to battle the cold is with preparation and precaution. The Texas DOT has a safety guide for winter travel, which can be found here, recommending what to put in an emergency kit.
Sliding and spinning
Four basic types of sliding exist—understeer, oversteer, counter-skid (fishtailing), and hydroplaning—and each requires a slightly different reaction. However, the best way to handle a skid is to practice. Find an empty, ice-covered or snow-blanketed parking lot and practice driving at slow speeds to train your muscles to react correctly to a slide.
One thing you never want to do is slam on your brakes, and generally, you will steer the car into the turn, but make sure you look where you want your car to go. Often times your hands will do the rest.
Defensive Driving course
Another option is to take a defensive driving class, which can help freshen you up on road safety tips and rules. It may also lower your insurance rates. We love to err on the side of caution, because it could save your life.
If you’re worried about road closers, you can visit www.txdot.gov and look for road closures under Road Conditions. You can also called 1-800-452-9292.
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