10 Tips to Survive Winter Driving in WisconsinFebruary 24, 2016
Milwaukee Car Accident Lawyers
If you are driving Milwaukee or elsewhere in Wisconsin during the wintertime, it is important to understand the serious risks of a deadly car accident.
Back in December 2013, a deadly 70-car pileup on a Wisconsin highway likely resulted from dangerous winter driving conditions, including ice and snow, according to this article.
Traffic camera footage on the Germantown, Wisconsin highway, which is available on YouTube, captured the fatal collision as it took place. The accident ended up shutting down Highway 41/45 for around nine hours, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
That report emphasizes the severity and scale of the accident, while also noting that wintry weather and poor driving conditions caused additional crashes at different points on the Wisconsin highways.
What is particularly frightening about this massive pileup was that it did not happen in the early hours of the morning or late at night — times when visibility is particularly limited. Instead, as a report from Fox 2 News noted, the multi-vehicle collision occurred at around noon on a Sunday afternoon.
It is extremely important for Milwaukee and Wisconsin residents to do everything they can to avoid being injured in a car accident, especially given that many traffic collisions are preventable.
Get Your Car Ready for Winter Driving
One of the best ways to avoid a deadly winter car accident is making sure that your vehicle is ready for snowy or icy conditions if you encounter them unexpectedly on the Wisconsin roadways.
While the best advice to avoid a winter traffic collision usually is to simply stay off the highways, winter weather sometimes can appear without much warning, leaving drivers in the midst of a snowstorm. At the same time, Wisconsin residents cannot always put off job-related duties or personal errands just because there is dangerous winter weather. As such, it is essential to prepare your car for winter driving.
Keep a supply box in your car at all times.
While it might sound obvious that you should have winter preparedness items in your car, you might not think to keep some of these items on hand. You might buy a large plastic container that fits in your trunk and make sure it contains these items:
- Warm clothing
- Extra gloves
- Materials for traction (sand or kitty litter)
- Charged cell phone (to call 911)
- Snow brush and ice scraper
Maintain your engine.
Part of being prepared for winter driving is ensuring that your automobile is ready for the road, too. This means checking the antifreeze levels in your car and ensuring that your engine coolant is at the proper level. You certainly do not want your engine to freeze. Auto supply stores sell tools for checking these levels, but you can also take your car to a mechanic for a quick check-up.
Maintain your tires
Safe winter driving means making sure that your tires are ready to encounter snow and ice. You should check your tire pressure. You can do this with a very simple gauge that can be purchased at a gas station or an auto supply store. If you have never checked your tire pressure, your car’s manual can let you know the proper pressure level. If your tires need air, you can stop at a gas station to fill them. In addition to tire pressure, check the tread on your tires. You can do the “Lincoln test.” It involves inserting “a penny into your tire’s tread with the top of Lincoln’s head pointing inward toward the tire.” If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, then it means that it’s time to replace your tires.
Switch to winter windshield wiper fluid.
Specific windshield wiper fluids are designed for winter. Using this fluid can help you to clear away ice and snow from your windshield.
Switch to winter-grade oil.
When you have your oil changed, be sure that your vehicle has the proper oil for cold weather. When the weather is colder, you want your car’s oil to be thinner. In general, this means choosing an oil with a lower number (for instance, going with 5W-30 instead of 10W-30).
Avoid These Mistakes While Driving in the Snow
Driving too quickly.
When roads are icy or covered in snow, driving too fast — even if you are still within the legal speed limit — can be a recipe for disaster. When road conditions are not clear, it is important to slow down. The 70-car pileup that occurred in Wisconsin a couple of years ago may have been prevented, at least in part, if more drivers had been moving slowly on the highway.
Following too closely.
While it is never a good idea to follow another driver too closely, in bad winter conditions, it can result in a collision. It is important to “allow at least five or six seconds of distance,” according to the article, in order to allow for the hazards of icy or wet roads.
Overcorrecting if you hit a patch of ice.
It is essential to know how you can control a skid. What should you do if you hit ice? If you are driving in a straight line, you should “take your foot off the gas and brake gently” while turning the steering wheel in the direction you want to move. In general, you want to avoid over-accelerating, and you want to steer in the direction of the skid in order to get back in control of your car.
Driving while drowsy.
Driving while you are tired can be dangerous at any time of the year. In the wintertime, it gets darker earlier and drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. Make sure you get enough sleep before heading out on a long winter drive.
Continuing to drive with poor visibility.
If you cannot see the road, you should consider pulling over. Each year, poor visibility — largely as a result of winter weather conditions — results in about 7,000 auto accident deaths, 800,000 injuries and around 1.5 million collisions. Indeed, “adverse weather is involved in nearly 20 percent of highway fatalities,” the article notes.
What to Do After a Winter Car Accident
We have years of experience with assisting Milwaukee residents and can answer your questions today. Contact Gruber Law Offices LLC to discuss your case.