With the longest stretch of winter weather faced by the Pacific Northwest in years, road safety is on our minds. When the season is finally over, we are likely to find that there were more car accidents this winter than the previous one that had mild weather. On average, more than 116,000 Americans are injured and over 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy pavement every winter.
Safety measures for winter driving conditions
Cities with consistent winter driving conditions take the precautionary step of salting the roads before the first snow fall.
A Marquette University study analyzed the effect that road salt has on highway accidents in snow. They found that road salt reduces car crashes by 88 percent and personal injuries by 85 percent. The cost of salting the roads was well under the price tag of the cost of the thwarted accidents.
Because the Pacific Northwest doesn’t traditionally have a lot of snow fall, the cities do not salt the roads. If this year ends of the marking the beginning of a change, salt may be considered in the future.
Many drivers choose to have their tires siped: the practice of cutting extra slits cut into their tire treads to increase traction on slippery roads. Drivers should expect to pay about $15 per tire at a car dealership. There is some question, though, as to whether tire siping really increases traction.
Consumer reports ran a study to see whether siping makes any difference. They tested two performance all-season models, an H-rated Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus and a V-rated Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S, with and without siping.
The results found that the siped tires of both models showed “modest but measurable improvements in snow-traction and ice-braking performance.” On the down side they found that braking distances on wet and dry pavement increased by a few feet. Another pitfall to consider is that siping can void your tread-wear warranty. Consumer reports advises to skip siping despite the modest increase in traction.
Winter driving tips
The majority of car accidents can be avoided with defensive driving techniques and other safety tips. Some of the driving tips are relevant no matter the weather but they become even more important during winter road conditions. AAA recommends the following winter driving tips:
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Make sure to get a full night’s sleep before setting out in winter driving conditions.
- Try to avoid parking on hills /using your parking brake in winter weather conditions.
- Never use cruise control in slippery conditions.
- Always look and steer in the direction you want your car to go.
- Drive under the speed limit.
- Take turns very slowly.
- Apply the brakes gently.
- Read your owner’s manual for the best way to apply the brakes if your car begins to skid.
- Always wear your seat belt.
- Avoid any distractions including cell phones, eating food or applying makeup.
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