As a mid-Atlantic seaboard state, Delaware has its fair share of harsh winter weather. The First State gets between 6 and 12 snowy days each year, which bring 10 to 20 inches of fresh snow annually. This snowfall can make Delaware's roadways icy and treacherous, and it's the responsibility of each and every Delawarean to know how to drive safely in these winter weather conditions.
Unfortunately, when drivers fail to suitably adapt their driving to accommodate winter weather, catastrophic accidents can result. In 2015, winter road and weather conditions contributed to more than 1,300 crashes—one of which was fatal, approximately 200 of which resulted in serious injuries, and more than 1,000 of which caused property damage in excess of $1,500, according to Delaware's Annual Traffic Statistical Report.
Knowing how to properly prepare your vehicle for the cold, and employing smart driving hints and tips can help keep you, your family and others on the road safe the next time inclement winter weather strikes.
Winterize Your Vehicle
Servicing your vehicle in the late fall or early winter—before traveling long distances or going on a trip—can help ensure that you're sufficiently prepared for what lies ahead. Take your vehicle to a mechanic for a tune-up and routine maintenance that includes checking the battery (and replacing it, if necessary), the cooling system (flushing, if needed, and adding the type of coolant specified in the vehicle owner's manual), and the windshield wipers and defrosters (replace blades that are worn, miss spots or leave streaks; consider specially designed winter wiper blades). Fill the windshield washer reservoir with a high-quality, freeze-resistant fluid and purchase extra to keep in your vehicle. Address any problems with the belts or hoses, and check the transmission, brake and power steering fluid levels. When it comes to tires, snow tires will give you the best grip on the road. However, all-season tires may be sufficient, if they have adequate pressure and tread depth.
Trip Planning and Preparation
While it can be tempting to hit the road and just go where it takes you, that's far from advisable in the winter months, when meticulous trip planning is essential to arriving at your destination safely. Before venturing out in winter weather, consult Delaware's three-tier driver warning system for any restrictions currently in effect and then plan your route, familiarize yourself with the directions, check road and weather conditions, and let someone know your route and anticipated arrival time so that they can summon help for you, if necessary.
Keep a winter emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle that includes:
- First aid kit
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Jumper cables
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Snow shovel
- Gloves, hats and blankets
- Bottled drinking water
- Non-perishable snacks
- Flares or reflective hazard triangles
- Cloth or paper towels
- Basic tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers and an adjustable wrench
- Bag of sand or cat litter (for traction)
You should also travel with a fully charged cell phone and a cell phone charger.
Safe Driving Tips
- Clean snow off the vehicle, including the roof and around the exhaust pipe.
- Wear seat belts and turn on low-beam headlights.
- Decrease your speed significantly, and accelerate and decelerate slowly.
- Increase following distance from four seconds to eight to 10 seconds.
- Don't use cruise control when driving in inclement weather.
- Know your braking system and how to use it: hold down anti-lock brakes; pump regular brakes.
- Steer into a skid; ease off the gas and turn the wheel in the direction you want the car to go.
- Be extra careful around snowplows; stay at least 10 car lengths behind the plow and don't attempt to pass.
Were You Injured in a Winter Weather Accident?
If you were injured in a winter car accident, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for damages from the at-fault driver. Morris James Personal Injury Group has extensive experience handling car accident cases like yours. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a no-cost, no-obligation case consultation.