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Winter road dangers

When you think about winter road dangers, there's actually quite a few to be aware of while driving in winter. Winter weather driving conditions can have a huge bearing on driving distances whether it is short, long or a vacation trip involving really long distances.

Before you leave home...

First thing is to check the weather reports online, TV or radio before you decide to leave home. You need to be aware of other winter driving dangers such as any road closures, accidents, drifting snow, low visibility conditions, fog, and my favorite (though baffling term), ice fog. Even with short commutes, sometimes waiting a little longer will get you there in the same amount of time had you left earlier.

If there is a winter event of large proportions heading your way, consider staying home until it moves out of your area. There will be snow as well as icy and slippery roads to navigate.

Besides these winter weather hazards, there are a number of winter driving dangers that I talk about here but there are other potential winter driving hazards you need to be aware of as well.

Extreme weather : Getting stuck in snow

The most common winter road danger is definitely snow and getting snowbound by the volume of it. I'm talking about getting stuck in severe winter weather. It might be in the city after a really large snowfall, on a highway or out in the country on isolated roads or other more remote areas. Make sure you have your emergency car kit inside the vehicle when you leave. It could make all the difference to you and your family. Part of making sure your trip goes smoothly and safely is to ensure that your vehicle is in good shape. Winter car care is an essential part of your trip preparation. Also remember to have a fully charged cell phone with you too for your trip.

Before you set out on your journey:

  • Let someone know where you are going i.e. destination
  • What route you'll be traveling and
  • When you expect to arrive.

Also having good old-fashioned maps on hand besides a GPS to guide you makes sense. Having used a GPS myself, the robotic voice doesn't always get the directions right.

If you do become really stuck in the snow due to extreme winter events like blinding blizzards, snowstorms, ice storms, high winds and whiteouts, here's what you do:

Stay in your vehicle!

It's the safest place until emergency services reach you.

It is so easy to get lost out in the snow and not find your way back to your vehicle so don't even try. You will risk your life, no two ways about it. Just sit tight and help will be along soon. Emergency and police services will be monitoring road and weather conditions in their region if there's a severe winter weather alert.

How to get unstuck in snow

One of the prime winter road dangers is getting stuck in snow somewhere. Part of your emergency car kit should also include a bag of sand or non-clumping cat litter. By throwing a good amount down in front or behind the tires will help give you traction to move out of the spot your vehicle is stuck in.

Good strategy:

  • The best strategy is go forward, then back, then forward - all just a few feet to edge your way out of being stuck. Remember to turn your wheel a little each time as you do this so you'll gradually move out of the "stuck" area. Keep repeating these steps until you are clear. This technique will give you a very good chance of becoming unstuck from the snow.

Bad strategy:

  • The worst strategy is spinning your tires to try to get out of the snow. It will have the reverse affect - you'll be burrowing your way in, not out. If you've ended up getting your vehicle buried deeper and deeper, the only solution then is to get a tow truck to help pull you out of the hole you "dug" for yourself. Just so you know, this service will be expensive.

Carbon Monoxide and running vehicles

This is really, really important. If you are plan on turning the engine on (and off) to keep warm is to make sure the exhaust pipe is free and clear from any snow or ice debris blocking the exhaust outflow.

Otherwise, deadly carbon monoxide will build up in the passenger area with the engine running. It's odorless and colourless; you won't know because you'll be slipping towards unconsciousness and worse.

If you leave the engine running:

  • Check the exhaust pipe is free of any blockages whenever and wherever you do this
  • Run the vehicle outdoors only.

Driving too fast for the winter weather

The responsibility for this all too common winter road danger rests entirely upon your shoulders as you are the driver. You have total control over how fast or slow you drive. Drive to suit the winter road conditions. Take as long as you need and forget the pressure of getting there quickly.

You put yourself, your family and other drivers at risk. As the old slogan says, "arrive alive". Winter driving is certainly a tenser situation so have frequent breaks if you are driving long distances.

Mother nature will have her own schedule for you so just go along for the ride (sorry about the pun!).

Black ice

Ice forming on the road is a particularly dangerous road condition. The ice is transparent so you can see the black pavement through it, hence the term "Black ice". You won't know that you've hit black ice until your wheels are sliding across it.

Your driving techniques for this winter road danger begins with:

  • Don't hit the brakes
  • Ease of the accelerator
  • Steer gently into the skid
  • Make a few minor corrections to adjust your forward momentum.
  • Drive slowly and be aware of the winter road conditions.

So that's just some of the winter road dangers but there are other winter road hazards that you need to know about. Then there's the lesser but still other winter driving challenges you will encounter as you go about your daily life.

Return to Winter Driving

Return to Winter Living Advisor from Winter Road Dangers