While much of the country’s drivers must contend with slush, snow, and ice on the roads at this time of year, many Florida drivers mistakenly assume that they do not have to worry about the hazards of driving in the winter at all. In fact, researchers have found that it is driver error, not weather conditions, that usually lead to wintertime accidents that cause fatalities and personal injury. That means that all drivers – even those lucky enough to drive through winter in mild climates – need to be on alert.
According to experts, these common driver mistakes are most likely to lead to accidents in the winter:
1) Speeding. Although this is a very common mistake, it can also be quite deadly. Driving too fast in the dark or on a wet day can mean that you lose control more easily. Speeding does not just mean driving over the speed limit, however. For experts, it means driving too fast for the current conditions. If you are driving on a wet road late at night, you may need to slow down below the posted limit to avoid going too fast for your conditions. Some experts recommend staying in touch through a cell phone to tell loved ones when you will be arriving. This way, you won’t be speeding to try to arrive before a pre-set time.
2) Not adjusting to sudden, unusual weather. A sudden sprinkling of snow or ice can cause havoc on the roads as some drivers fail to adjust to road conditions. Even a sudden strong storm that is unusually heavy for an area can mean more accidents, more brain injuries, and more spinal cord injuries. The 24 hours or day after an unusual weather event or the first weather event of a season (the first snowfall, for example, or the first heavy rainstorm) are most dangerous. If you are on the roads during this time, slow down and use extra caution.
3) Following too closely. When roads are wet and when the weather is dark, leave extra room between you and vehicle in front of you. Also, consider leaving more room when driving on roads that see plenty of wildlife – if the car in front of you brakes suddenly for a deer, you may not have time to brake.
4) Know what to do when you slip. Just because Florida drivers do not have to contend with icy roads, that does not mean that slippery conditions do not happen. Excessive rain or even spills on the road can cause a car to slip, and Florida drivers traveling in other parts of the country during the winter need to be prepared. If you do start to slide on a slippery road surface, remain calm and remove your foot from the gas pedal. Brake gently with constant, steady pressure. Your car may still slide and buckle but the brakes will have a better chance of working correctly with this method. Do not slam the brakes. If your car is skidding, steer your wheel gently where you want the car to go.
5) Don’t get too confident in your car’s abilities. Many drivers with SUVs or four-wheel drive assume that their cars are safer and therefore do not adjust driving to weather conditions. Even a larger car with all-wheel drive can slip or get stuck in mud, however. Get to know your car and use caution anyway when dealing with difficult weather.
6) Get seasonal car tune ups. Getting a professional to check tire treads, antifreeze levels, the battery, and belts is a good idea a few times a year. Drivers can learn to check their own tire pressure and oil levels. Keeping your vehicle in good condition ensures safer driving – no matter the season or the weather.