You Should Be Wary of Driving When There Is Light Snow on The Streets. Here’s Why.

The most dangerous misconception among drivers is that it is safe to drive in light snow. You may not face the same obstacles that knee-deep snow will pose, but you may face a greater threat. Light snow quickly changes to black ice, which can lead to fatal accidents.  

In this article, we will discuss the dangers that you might face on a seemingly innocent winter drive, what you should do to avert those dangers while driving, and the safety precautions that you should take beforehand.

Dangers You Can Face While Driving on Light Snow

Black ice is formed on roads when a thin layer of water freezes with little to no air bubbles. This makes the ice completely transparent and causes a slip hazard. Many winter road accidents happen on black ice.

Light snow, on the other hand, is visible, but equally as dangerous. It is just the first stage of black ice. Light snow can quickly melt from the heat and friction of the tires, and turn into black ice.

Both of these scenarios occur when the temperature is around 32°F, or 0°C. This is when you should be most cautious while driving.

You should expect the following situations if you set out to drive after a light snowfall on a sunny winter day:

1. Slippery Roads

Standard tires lose traction on the wet and slippery surface of the road. The slickness makes the tires slide out of control, and could cause a collision.

It is best to use snow tires during the winter. These offer better traction when driving in wet and snowy conditions.

2. Impaired Vision

Unless you are out on a sunny day with clear skies, your visibility during the winter can be reduced. Gray skies and fog are common during this season, meaning you won’t be able to see minor bumps on the road, or other approaching vehicles.

Be sure to drive slowly, and use caution at intersections. Your field of vision becomes greater at decreased speeds.

3. Mechanical Issues

Extremely low temperatures can affect your car, just as it affects your body. Fluids can freeze, and machinery under the hood can stop working due to cold. Because of this, your car can stop working in the middle of the road. In worst-case scenarios, you could face a tire blowout.

Make sure that you get your car checked out by a professional to make sure everything is working properly.

4. Vehicle Damage

Although not as pressing an issue, this one costs you money in the long run. Snowy roads are often covered with salt in order to bring down the melting point of the snow. This briny water gets sprinkled onto your car while driving which causes rust. A new car can suffer considerable damage after just one winter of frequent driving.

Cleaning your car regularly can help prevent this.

Precautions To Take Before Driving on Light Snow

The obvious solution is to not venture out at all, but that is not a viable option for many.

You might already have a road trip planned, or maybe you are supposed to go on a vacation by car. The roads may get icy or frosted on the day you are to leave. What do you do then?

Canceling the trip is one option. The other choice is staying fully equipped for this possibility.

If you are expecting to drive during the winter, be that for a vacation or for running daily errands, you should always prepare your car. Staying ready will effectively minimize your chances of getting into an accident.

Take the following steps to improve your chances on an icy road:

1. Check Your Tires

Always check tire inflation and traction first. If the tire pressure is too low, heat will build up, resulting in a blowout. Even if that doesn’t happen, driving will become more difficult nonetheless. The same goes for worn-out tires, which won’t be able to provide the required traction on an icy road.

Switching to winter tires or tire traction devices is wise. These tires are made of special flexible rubber, and enhance grip and braking on slippery roads. Winter tires are a good investment for people living in cold regions where snowfall is common.

2. Inspect The Wiper Blades

Your windshield wipers work the hardest in the winters. They need to be in good shape to effectively wipe off the snow, melted ice, and dirt.

Consider getting new wiper blades. The beam blade style is especially fit for the winter.

3. Fill Up on Gas

Driving in the snowy winter with anything less than half a tank of gas is a dangerous feat. You never know when you might get unexpectedly delayed or stuck in the snow. You may even have to spend the night in your car.

Ideally, you should always drive with a full tank of gas. This prevents accumulated water from freezing inside the fuel pump, and it weighs down your vehicle, improving traction. With a full tank, you can also keep the heat on, in case you get stuck. 

4. Test The Battery

Car batteries are hit the worst in harsh conditions. Batteries are estimated to lose about 35% of their strength in 32℉ /0℃  and 60% of their strength in 0℉ /-18℃.

You can perform a voltage test to determine battery strength. A bad battery leads to a car that won’t start as you freeze in the cold.

5. Use Antifreeze Liquid

The two most important fluids in your car are the coolant and the washer fluid. The coolant you use for keeping your engine cool should be antifreeze. The same goes for the washer fluid you use to clean the windshield of salt and sand.

6. Examine The Headlights

Since daylight lasts for a shorter duration in winters, you are naturally going to use your headlights a lot more often. Pay special attention to your lights if you don’t want to be stranded in the darkness in the middle of nowhere.

Make sure all of your external lights are in tip-top shape. If the lights are flickering, foggy, yellowed, or simply not working, change them immediately. Also, wipe the headlights before driving. You need a sharp and strong source of light to find your way through the winter fog.

7. Clear The Exhaust Pipe

Always check the exhaust pipe before driving. Sometimes the exhaust pipe is clogged with snow, ice, or mud while the engine is running. This is a deadly combination that can cause carbon monoxide leakage into the passenger compartment. It can cause asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide poisoning, and even death.

8. Car Servicing

If all the above steps seem too intimidating to do on your own, you can always opt for winter auto service. You can eliminate a lot of hassle for a service charge.

This covers all the essentials such as checking tires, wipers, batteries, cooling fluid, headlights, and the exhaust pipe. The mechanics will make sure that your car can withstand the freezing temperatures.

9. Rinse Your Vehicle

Remember that saltwater corrodes paint and eats away at your car. This is the way to prevent that from happening:

Rinse your car’s exterior thoroughly before taking it for a drive. Don’t forget to clear the snow off of the roof that is accumulated overnight. This is something you will have to do every day if you want to prevent any damage to your vehicle.

10. Check The Temperature Control

The two features that work in tandem to control internal temperatures are the defroster and the climate control. The defroster will keep the car windows from getting frosted and foggy. Climate control will keep you nice and toasty. If either of these is not working properly, get them fixed ASAP. 

11. Carry Emergency Supplies

Your emergency supplies are going to get you out of sticky situations, and ultimately save your life. These include supplies for both yourself and your vehicle on long-distance winter trips.

Carry a snow shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, cat litter, jumper cables, flashlight, and emergency flares. Your car should also contain cold-weather gear, warm blankets, snacks, water, and any necessary medications.

12. Get Insured

If you’re planning on an international road trip, your domestic insurance may not provide all the coverage you need. While rental car insurance can provide a measure of protection in case something happens to your rental, you still have to make sure you’re protecting yourself, and your finances.

By purchasing travel insurance or travel medical insurance, it is possible to get the protection you need. Your international insurance plan can provide you with financial coverage if your trip must be cancelled for an unavoidable reason that’s covered by your policy, and provide valuable medical coverage in case you require treatment due to an accident or illness during your trip.

Appropriate Conduct While Driving on Light Snow

Despite the risk, you may still be compelled to drive due to unavoidable circumstances. This does not mean that something bad will happen.

Driving in light snow is most dangerous when you are careless. However, there are certain driving techniques and hacks that can reduce the risk.

1. Never Speed

Drive slow and steady. Do not make any sudden movements like speeding, frequently changing lanes, or spinning the wheels. Accelerate at a snail’s pace if you must.

Move your car in a slow and straight motion if you don’t want to hit a patch of black ice and slip.

2. Avoid Cruise Control

You should never use cruise control on slick roads. Take complete control of the gas pedal, brakes, and steering wheel. Cruise control can add more power at the wrong time, resulting in losing traction, and accidents.

3. Stay Calm

Don’t panic if you feel the car sliding or skidding out of control. It is important to have your head about you in such a situation. Just look in the direction you want the car to go, pump the brake pedal and steer smoothly.

Don’t get overconfident either. Making a rash move can cost you your life.

4. Brake Carefully

Never slam on the brakes. Hard braking can immediately make your car skid.

When approaching a stop sign or an intersection, take your foot off of the accelerator slowly. Apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal with the ball of your foot while keeping the heel of your foot on the floor.

Use antilock brakes if available, and be sure to give your vehicle enough time and space to slow down.

5. Keep Your Momentum

Avoid coming to stop when possible and legal. It takes more inertia to start the car from a full stop. This means the speed will increase unexpectedly on an icy or snowy surface, causing you to lose control.

Avoid roads with lots of traffic lights and intersections. If you are about to approach a stoplight, slow down enough to keep rolling until the traffic light changes.

6. Avoid Tailgating

Keep a safe distance from other vehicles, since it takes your car more time to come to a stop in snowy conditions. Keep a minimum distance of six car-lengths.

7. Drive On the Right Roads

Avoid highly trafficked roads and bridges, unmaintained roads and overpasses, and roadways near construction sites. These places are most risk-prone after light snow.

When you are going up a hill, get a little inertia going before you reach the climb. Don’t try to power your way up or stop abruptly while going uphill. Both of these situations will spin your wheels and cause your car to skid.

Better Safe than Sorry

If you have to drive in light snow, be patient and give yourself ample time to reach your destination. Always carry a charged mobile phone in case of emergencies. In the end, it’s always better to avoid driving on slick roads whenever possible. If you do not absolutely have to travel, consider putting off your trip for another day. In most cold climates, road crews can get roads clear and safe to travel on less than 24 hours after precipitation has ended. Until then, your very best move is to stay warm and stay indoors.

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