With the mild autumn we have had this year in New England it is easy to forget that winter is knocking on the door and with that comes all the unique challenges of the season, including winter driving. As a part of our annual update, we are going to dive into winter driving, issues and concerns you should have on your radar, and how to best prepare yourself for driving this winter.
Do you remember when you were learning to drive, and all that was covered about winter driving was that you needed to turn into a slide? Yeah, us too. And if that’s all that we needed to know about driving in the winter and snowy/icy conditions, that would be great, but it isn’t – there is a lot more to it. In reality, there are several different items worth considering as you think about hitting the road this winter. And, with over 70% of roads in the US located in what are considered snowy regions, how to drive safely in the winter is well worth reviewing. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered, and in this article, we are going to break down the key items to be aware of this winter season, so you, your car, and your policy are all prepared.
In the US alone, there are nearly 200,000 vehicle incidents per year attributable to driving in wintery conditions.
Preparing Your Vehicle During the Winter
Winter driving can present new challenges for both you and your vehicle, so preparing your car appropriately is the best way to set yourself up for success this winter season. As the old adage goes, failure to prepare, can be preparing to fail. When it comes to winter driving, this saying can be of real benefit as winter storms often arrive quickly with plummeting temperatures and significant volumes of snow, which can make driving treacherous and, in the worst case, leave drivers stranded. You may recall all the drivers stranded in Fredericksburg, VA last year, when a winter storm blew through the DC Metro area quickly catching drivers completely off guard. So, to help you prepare, here is our shortlist to help you make sure your car is prepared for the winter season.
Clearing Snow from Your Car
Clearing the snow off of your car, including your roof, is an important step before heading out on the road. First and foremost, for visibility’s sake, it is important to clean off and scrape down both the front and rear windshield. But, clearing the snow off of the car’s roof is an important consideration for other drivers on the road. Having large masses of snow or ice come off your car while driving can be a hazard to other drivers on the road. In Massachusetts, while there is not a specific law that requires snow to be cleared, snow falling from the roof of your car onto the road can be considered a violation of driving with an unsecured load, thus leaving you liable. Not to mention, we all find it terrifying when the car in front suddenly has a load of snow come flying off their car at us.
As colder weather begins to set in, checking the tire tread on your is a quick and easy but very important step in making sure you are ready for driving in wintry conditions. Having tires with enough tread depth on them is key to ensuring that you will have enough traction when out on the road should you be driving through snow or the wet. The tread on the tires is specifically designed to help disperse and shed snow and water, helping you keep traction. When this tread is worn down, the likelihood of an incident increases – even in light snow.
A quick way to check whether or not your tires have enough tread on them is to use the penny trick – insert a penny in-between the grooves of the tread, Lincoln head side down. If you have enough tread depth, you shouldn’t be able to see his head.
If you live in an area that gets regular snowfall, you may want to consider having all-weather tires fitted on your car or the gold standard, having a separate set of winter-specific tires that you can put on your vehicle each winter. Both of these options, along with checking the tread wear, will ensure that you have traction on the road this winter.
A quick side note on winter tires. One question we often hear is: “are winter tires worth it.” Well simply put, yes, winter tires do make a significant difference in the handling of your vehicle when driving in snow and icy conditions. Winter tires are designed differently than your all-season or summer tires. Winter tires incorporate both a different tread design that help move snow and keep tread on the ground, as well as different compound make up that allows the tire to stay flexible and engaged with the road even in freezing conditions. If you find yourself doing a lot of driving in areas prone to heavy snow and ice, winter tires may be a very good choice for your vehicle.
Gas Tank Full
The plummeting temperatures can have a silent and unseen impact on your car – that is, until you go to start it. A tank that is left partially empty during a cold weather spell can fall victim to freezing condensation within the tank as water separates from the fuel. The next time you attempt to start your car, you may find that the engine is running particularly rough as there is now frozen water vapor in your fuel lines rather than gas.
In addition to the recommendations above, there are several other items that you may want to consider as a part of winter driving safety preparations. They are as follows:
- A snow & ice brush/scraper to keep in your vehicle.
- Sand & Salt in your trunk in case your car gets stuck.
- A snow shovel to keep in the trunk of your car, again in case you find yourself stuck in a deep patch of snow or need to dig out a buried car.
- De-icing windshield washer fluid to make sure your windshield stays clear.
When trapped or taking shelter in an automobile during snowstorms it is essential to leave the vehicle occasionally and clear all tail pipes of snow. When blocked by snow accumulation or snow drifts, an auto’s exhaust pipes can back up carbon monoxide, a deadly gas, into the passenger side of the vehicle. Every year people are needlessly killed because they took shelter in a stationary but running vehicle. Please always make sure your tail pipes are clear of any debris.
Driving During the Winter
Now that we have reviewed some of the main considerations when preparing your car for driving during the winter, let’s turn to actually driving. There are nearly 200,000 vehicle incidents per year attributable to driving in wintry conditions in the US alone. Many of these incidents could have possibly been avoided through mindful preparation. Here are a few key winter driving tips before heading out this winter season:
- Driving in the winter conditions can take longer. Plan on allowing additional time for your commute or trip.
- Take notice of which roads you are traveling on. Backroads, Main Roads, and Highways are often cleared at different times, so they may present differing driving conditions.
- Allow more space between cars on the road as the stopping distance is greatly increased when driving in snow and icy conditions. Giving yourself more room between the next vehicle will allow you to slow down and prevent skidding.
Preparing Your Insurance Policy
Winter driving applies to both commercial and personal accounts. There are three steps to take to prepare for winter driving: prepare your car, prepare yourself and prepare your policy. We focused on the first two already. Now, in this section, we are solely focused on preparing your insurance policy. When preparing your policy make sure to review your current policy, in full.
Deductible, Premium & Collision: you can look at your deductible and premium and see if anything should be modified in case you were to get into a collision. In the winter months, if you are going to be driving less, then you could increase the deductible and if you are going to be driving more then you could decrease the deductible.
Comprehensive: when reviewing the comprehensive portion of the policy, keep in mind the coverage is referring to things that happen to the car. An example for the winter would be snow-laden tree limbs falling on and damaging the vehicle.
Teen Drivers: if you have teen drivers, you can send them to skid school. This allows them to be confident driving in snowy conditions. Also, some carriers provide policy discounts for the completion of the training.
Umbrella Policy: lastly, review your umbrella policy as this can cover you in a large accident. Umbrella policies (link) come into play for a catastrophic loss. An example in the winter could be a true accident. Meaning your car slides through the intersection and T-bones another car. This could be considered a catastrophic loss. Call us at Deland, Gibson and we can review your policy with you, talk through your situations and recommend the proper changes to make.
Providing Peace of Mind Through Proactive Service
Driving in the winter can pose many concerns or problems throughout the season’s months. Being proactive is the name of the game. Start discussions with Deland, Gibson, before a loss or accident occurs. We specialize in risk management and assessing the needs of clients.
Deland, Gibson: a Trusted Choice, Five Star Accredited independent insurance agency. Established in Massachusetts in 1900, Deland, Gibson is a 4th generation family-run insurance agency that has thrived working as a trusted advisor for its client base. We work with individuals and businesses to lower their Total Cost of Risk. We analyze a client’s direct and indirect costs and implement risk reduction plans to address areas of business, hazard, or strategic risk.