Sudden emergence of winter spells dangers for drivers

COLUMBUS — With snow falling and more on the way this weekend, AAA is urging Ohioans to remain vigilant when driving in winter weather and take steps to prevent winter breakdowns.

Winter storms and slick road conditions are a factor in more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries and Deaths in Relation to Weather Conditions.

“There is a disproportionate number of crashes this time of year involving bad weather and winter storms,” said Kellie O’Riordan, Traffic Safety Program Manager for AAA Ohio Auto Club. “Snow and sleet can cause significant safety problems by reducing visibility and making it difficult to safely maneuver or stop your vehicle.”

The AAA found the highest proportion of crashes involving inclement weather happens overnight between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. when visibility is limited and roads are most likely to freeze.

Crashes and roadside issues are common during Ohio’s wintery blasts. AAA’s roadside assistance calls often double, or triple, during cold and snow. Last winter (Dec. 21, 2017 – March 19, 2018):

More than 39,000 Ohio drivers crashed on wet or slick roads, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

AAA responded to more than 276,000 roadside assistance calls. The most common calls were for tows (50.6 percent) and dead batteries (21.3 percent). Tires (12.1 percent), and lockouts (12 percent) made up the bulk of the remaining calls.

To avoid crashing or breaking down during winter weather, AAA recommends drivers:

Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.

Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Take plenty of time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember, it also takes longer to slow down on icy roads.

Increase following distance. Allow five or six seconds following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. This space allows you time to stop safely if the other driver brakes suddenly.

Know your brakes. Whether or not you have antilock brakes, apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. Don’t pump the brakes.

Maintain tires. Tires are the main point of contact with the road. Adequate pressure and tread depth are essential for stopping on going on ice and snow.

Check battery. The average life of a battery is 3-5 years. It requires a fully charged battery in good condition to start a vehicle in the cold. To ensure your battery is in good condition have an automotive technician inspect it at least twice a year.

Replace old windshield wipers and solvent. Salty spray from the roads can make it hard to see on winter roads. Solvent and good windshield wipers can improve visibility.

Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.

If you do breakdown or spin out on slick roads, it may take help longer to get to you in wintry conditions. That’s why it’s important to pack an emergency roadside kit that includes: Jumper cables; Blankets and extra clothes to stay warm; Flashlight and extra batteries; Ice scraper; Safety reflectors; Shovel; First aid kit; Simple tool kit; Water and non-perishable food; Mobile phone and charger to call for help.


Staff report