Avoid Car Accidents by Preparing for Hazardous Driving Conditions

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on January 24, 2016
As Canadians, we are so accustomed to severe weather conditions that many of us rarely cancel a planned trip in the car or truck, but it's imperative that we take precautions to ensure that we safely arrive at our destination. Planning for a "worse case scenario" may turn out to be the best thing we ever did and can literally save our life not to mention the lives of family members.

When driving in winter weather, there are a few common sense safety precautions to implement.

Drive with the Flow of Traffic
Drive slower than the posted speed limit, but not too slow. Try to stay with the flow of traffic and keep passing to a minimum. This will minimize the number of cars that you pass or pass you. It's simple statistics … the fewer cars that you pass, the fewer chances you have to be in an accident with them.

Stay Well Behind the Car in Front of You
If you are traveling at a high speed, you don't know if the car in front of you will have to stop suddenly for traffic and you don't know how long it might take for you to stop due to the snowy, icy road conditions. Give the car in front of you double the amount of room you normally would so that you can stop safely if you are required to do so. Keep in mind that both the courts and insurance regulations in Ontario find the rear driver 100 per cent at fault in almost all rear-ending car accidents.

Don't Change Lanes Unnecessarily
Stay in your lane and be patient. Don't be tempted to go around traffic by changing lanes to get to your destination faster. Changing lanes can be very dangerous in snowy, icy conditions as you could hit a slick patch in the middle of the two lanes and slide out of control, or you could strike another car that is coming up from behind that you didn't see. Obviously changing lanes to avoid or go around a traffic accident is an exceptional situation; however, use good judgement and be prepared for a longer drive when the roads are slick or snow-covered.

There are also a number of precautions to take before you set out on your winter driving excursion.

Winterizing your car should include the following actions.

1. Tune-Up your Vehicle
Get a complete tune-up once per year and "Winterize" your vehicle before winter driving season gets underway. All fluids, hoses and spark plugs should be refreshed and replaced.

2. Install new Windshield Wipers
It is a good idea to purchase brand new windshield wipers once per year, preferably just before winter comes when you'll need them the most. Don't wait until your windshield wipers no longer work perfectly to replace them. You should replace your windshield wipers before the winter season and severe weather strikes. Around the end of September or beginning of October is a good time to do so. 

3. Check the Battery. 
If you are stuck in traffic you may be forced to shut your car off and sit still for hours, but you'll still have to keep warm. Having a fully charged new battery will give you the peace of mind to know that you won't need a jump start when traffic gets moving again.

4. Check the Rear and Brake Lights
Check your rear lights and brake lights to make sure that they are working properly. In a snow storm, you can manage the distance you stay behind the car in front of you, but your only defence against the car behind you to hope they see your tail lights and brake lights. Some people go as far as to install what are called "flood lights", a very bright lighting system either in their rear window or underneath the back of the car to ensure that the car is visible to other traffic coming up from behind in severe weather. 

5. Check the Window De-Icer and De-Fogger
Make sure that your front window de-icer and defogger is in working condition. In a snow or ice storm visibility is limited as it is and you don't need to add to your driving difficulties with foggy inside windows or icy outside windows. 

6. Fill up Your Gas Tank to the Maximum
Fill up your gas tank before you start out. If traffic comes to a complete halt you can just shut off your car and save fuel, but most often you'll be crawling along at 5 or 10 miles per hour in heavy traffic for extended periods of time with a foot on and off the gas pedal and breaks. This stop and go driving reduces you gas mileage to up to one-half of what it would be under normal driving conditions, so understand that you must have more gas as well to get where you want to go in a worst-case weather scenario.

7. Install Winter Tires
As of January 1, 2016, motor vehicle insurance companies will be forced to give drivers a discount on their automobile insurance policies if they install winter tires. Winter tires, with larger, more pronounced and deeper treads, provide better handling in all snowy road situations. Winter tires differ from "all-weather" tires; all-weather tires are not as effective in controlling your car when the temperature is below 7 degrees celsius.

8. Bring a Second Set of Clothes. 
Having a second set of clothes with you is of benefit if you experience car trouble or are cold and need another layer on top of your existing clothes. A sweater, your warmest coat, an extra pair of socks and a warm hat may be a 'life saver' if your car breaks down and you must wait for assistance or if you get wet while changing a tire, particularly during extreme winter weather conditions. 

These are just a few of the many precautions we can take to prepare for winter driving conditons. The comfort and safety of you and your family depend on your foresight into the very real hazards Ontario's severe winter weather presents. It's up to you to take the initiative to prepare your vehicle for the worst that could happen.

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