Finally we have snow here in Traverse City, Michigan. Although our ski hills have been churning out the man-made stuff at night, today marks the first real accumulation we've had all season.
With the first snow comes the first round of winter driving auto accidents that could be avoided. We always seem to see an uptick in car crashes here in Northern Michigan when the first ice and snow storms hit.
To avoid being one of those folks, some simple safety tips should keep you between the lines and out of the ditch.
1. The best way to avoid a winter driving accident is to stay off the roads. If there's bad weather and you can avoid a trip, stay home.
2. If you must drive, stay home until the plow trucks and sanding trucks have had a chance to maintain the roads in your neighborhood.
3. If you must drive, make sure your car is prepared. [Tips on prepping your car]
4. If able, practice driving on ice and snow in a snowy open parking lot so you will become familiar with how your car handles in extreme ice and snow situations. Check your owners manual for driving tips specific to your vehicle.
5. Drive slower and leave plenty of room to stop – at least three times the distance you usually give in the summer.
6. Brake gently to keep from skidding and sliding. If you start to skid while braking, take your foot of the brake.
7. Headlights on at all times to alert other motorists. Keep your headlights and windshield clean.
8. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
9. Be especially carefully travelling on overpasses, bridges and less frequently travelled roads as they will ice up first.
10. Don't pass snow plows or sanding trucks. Their visibility is limiited and the roads in front will be worse than the roads behind.
11. If your rear wheels start to skid – take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go.
Most of these tips are simply common sense. If you slow down your speed and keep plenty of distance between you and the other drivers, you will have a better chance of spending your winter on the roadways and avoiding the ditch.
In our next article, we'll discuss what you need to do if you are unable to avoid an accident and tips for documenting your claim.