Winter weather can be magical when you have the opportunity to stay home with a warm, comforting beverage. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not stop for a bit of snow, which means you’re probably still going to work, dropping kids off at school, or running errands.
Driving in snow is hazardous. You should always slow down when you’re behind the wheel and there is snow on the roads. But exactly how much slower should we all be driving? Read on for tips about finding the safest speed for driving in the snow.
Slow Down When Driving in Snow
Slower is always better in snowy conditions. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), you should cut your speed by at least half when driving on snow packed roads.
If you’re not sure how to figure out what speed this should be, start with the speed you would normally travel on a given road in ideal driving conditions. If that speed is 60 mph, halving it would give you 30 mph.
Remember, the FMCSA cautions you to reduce your speed by at least half. This means that driving even slower is sometimes the safest approach. Don’t let the posted speed limit tell you what to drive in this situation. That speed limit is only for when driving conditions are ideal.
You should also avoid leaving the house in a rush. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, even more than you think you’ll need. In snowy weather the goal is to arrive safely, not necessarily quickly.
Snow also makes it harder for vehicles’ tires to gain traction. Traveling at lower speeds improves your chances of gaining and maintaining good traction between your tires and the road.
More Snow Safety Tips
After applying the brakes, it may take your vehicle as much as twice as long as normal to come to a complete stop in snowy conditions. The slower you drive the sooner you’ll be able to react to things like stop signs, traffic signals, and emergencies, and the easier you’ll be able to brake safely and in time.
You should also avoid slamming on your brakes on snowy roads. This can be difficult when our first instinct upon sliding on slippery pavement is to stop as quickly as possible. What actually happens when you slam on the brakes in snowy weather is that they lose traction.
Losing traction makes it even harder to regain control of your vehicle. You’ll be more likely to spin or cause an accident after slamming on your brakes.
How to Handle Sliding on Snow
Living in an area that experiences regular winter weather means that you need to understand how to handle your car sliding on snow, both for your own safety as well as the safety of those who share the road with you.
You already know to avoid slamming on the brakes, but there’s more to it than that. Braking correctly can drastically decrease your risk of losing control in wintery weather. Ideally, start decelerating first by lifting your foot off the gas pedal. Then, apply slow and steady pressure while keeping your heel on the floor. This will help you come to a safe, gradual stop.
What you do with the steering wheel also matters. If your vehicle starts sliding on snow, try to keep your steering wheel straight in the direction that you were originally headed. The Forest Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that you can gently turn the wheel if the back of your vehicle starts sliding either left or right. Just be sure to steer in the same direction, as steering the opposite way will increase your risk of spinning out.
Other Types of Winter Weather Hazards
Snow is not the only type of dangerous driving condition you might encounter during winters in Pennsylvania. Ice and slush can both exist as separate hazards, or in conjunction with each other and snow.
Ice forms on roads when the temperature drops below freezing. Ice can also form on bridges, overpasses, and in shaded areas even when temperatures are not freezing just yet. One of the biggest concerns is black ice.
Black ice freezes transparent, making it impossible to spot. It may entirely coat a road, be present in patches, or be hiding underneath snow. Just like when driving in snow, you should slow down and proceed with caution in places where the conditions for ice are right.
Creating more distance between the car in front of you, reducing your speed, and avoiding slamming on your brakes are the best ways to avoid losing control on ice. If you do start to slide, use the same steering techniques as you would on snow.
Slush naturally forms on its own when ice melts. However, slush may form at lower temperatures than normal in places like Pennsylvania that salt roads to prevent snow or ice buildup. The type of slush you will most likely encounter on the road is made up of:
- Motor Vehicle Pollutants
Like with snow and ice, slush reduces traction on the roads. It may also build up between lanes, making things like turning and switching lanes much more dangerous than usual. Slowing down, braking slowly, and paying careful attention to your surroundings are essential when traveling in slushy areas.
Prepare for the Worst
Even if you follow safety rules like reducing your speed when driving in snow, you can still end up in a dire situation. Having a fully stocked emergency bag in your vehicle can be lifesaving if another driver hits your car. Here are a few things you’ll want to include in your emergency kit:
- First Aid Kit
- Phone Charger and Portable Battery
- Non-Perishable Food and Snacks
- Warm Clothes and Blankets
- Jumper Cables
- Ice Scraper
- Reflective Gear or Flares
Surviving a car accident in winter weather can be a traumatizing experience. On top of dealing with your injuries, you may already be facing common financial damages like lost wages and medical bills. At Shrager & Sachs, one of our knowledgeable car accident attorneys can talk you through your options during a free case evaluation, so be sure to get in touch today.