Driving in the winter takes a toll on our vehicles as well as our nerves. Getting behind the wheel in cold and snowy weather requires that we make adjustments to our regular driving habits by double-checking our vehicles’ general maintenance and driving with greater caution. But when it’s necessary to make a long-distance car trip in the winter, a good deal more planning is required. The personal injury attorneys at Hupy and Abraham have come up with the following long-distance driving tips to keep you and your family safe if you need to make a road trip during potentially poor winter weather.
Check the weather reports. Before you head out on a long-distance trip, catch the weather reports to see if you’re driving into a storm or exceptionally cold weather. This is especially important if part of your trip takes you through isolated areas. If notably bad weather is expected it would be best to delay your departure. But if you must leave, make sure someone knows your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
Plan out your route. If your trip is taking you far from home, chances are you're going to be driving through unfamiliar areas. In weather that affects visibility and stopping distances, it is unsafe to make last-second turns and decisions. Avoid getting lost or stranded in isolated areas -- with the possibility of no cell service -- by bringing a map or updated GPS that offers hands-free directions.
Know what time to travel. Depending on where you're going, make sure you're going at a good time to avoid the risk of breaking down or getting lost in a lightly traveled area. If your route takes you through unpopulated areas, poor weather, or difficult stretches of road (such as high altitude or mountainous roads), plan to do so during the daytime. If you do get stranded, you'll want it to be during a time of day when you’re more likely to be found. Do some research on the weather and conditions in the areas you're traveling to get some idea of what to expect.
Inspect and pack the vehicle with care. A few days before you set out, you'll want to make sure your vehicle is running properly for the trip. You or your mechanic should check your belts and hoses, and have your cooling system and battery fully checked. Your car should already have a safety kit, but make sure it’s provisioned for the number of passengers and amount of time that will be spent driving. Your vehicle may also be loaded down with more luggage than you’re accustomed to, so pack your belongings in such a way that everything remains in place if you must stop suddenly.
Only drive while well-rested. Drowsy driving is a leading cause of car accidents, especially in the winter when the sun sets earlier in the day. Be sure to take plenty of breaks, and if you start to get drowsy or lose focus, switch drivers or stop and rest. However, never stop on the side of the road at night or attempt to sleep at rest stops in the winter. Stop at a hotel if you feel too tired to keep driving. Don’t push your limits, especially when ice and snow is present.
Those of us in the Midwest are used to experiencing the extremes that winter weather can bring, and are often better at dealing with it than others. Keep in mind that your trip may be taking you cities in other parts of the country not equipped to deal with wintery conditions like we’re accustomed to. Road conditions and the actions of other drivers may not be what you expect. Always travel in the winter with caution, and hopefully these tips will make your long-distance winter trip a little easier.
But, if for any reason you and/or a loved one are injured while driving in poor winter conditions, please contact the experienced attorneys at Hupy and Abraham for a free consultation. Call 800-800-5678.