Shift to Winter Car Safety & Preparation

As much as we would like to put off winter, it is quickly approaching. Having your vehicle ready for winter helps as Midwest winters begin in November and last through March. The weather can change radically from day to day. Thus, now is the time to prepare your vehicle for winter travel. Whether you take your car in for service of do it yourself, do not put if off. None of us want to be stranded on a wintery roadside as it is miserable and dangerous. One of the most dangerous places is the shoulder of a busy interstate in any kind of weather. Weekly, we have serious and deadly pedestrian and vehicle collisions on roadways due to pedestrians being on the roadside after a crash or break down or disabled car.

Making sure your vehicle is well maintained will make winter weather driving less stressful. While tire inspection is critical all year, it is particularly important as snow and icy weather advance.

Safety and auto manufacturer experts offer some recommendations:

Check your tire tread. Be sure to inspect your tires for tread wear and rotate them during every oil change.

Fill up your tires. If your dashboard has not alerted you in the last three weeks that your tire inflation is incorrect, then maybe it’s malfunctioning. At the end of October, the temperature dropped and all of our tires reacted as they do when outside temperatures fall.

Change oil and antifreeze. Regular maintenance to your vehicle can help to prevent car troubles during winter driving months. Finding yourself stranded due to oil or antifreeze shortage can be a really miserable experience. In really cold temperatures, it can be dangerous

Fix your heater– short drives without heat can be miserable , but if you are stuck in your vehicle for an extended period of time, it can be dangerous. Of course, minutes in an unheated car in frigid temperatures creates discomfort, but exposure to frigid temperatures can cause injury

Inspect your battery. Your vehicle’s battery capacity lessons in cold weather. Have a professional inspection to be sure your battery is winter ready.

Consider snow tire options. Some area governments require use of chains or studded tires. Chains and studded tires should only be used in hazardous conditions. The damage to the road surfaces are hazardous when chains and studded tires are use without snow. If you live in the metro area, you know we do not need to make our roadways worse.

    • It is illegal in Missouri to use chains or studded tires prior to November 1 or after March 31. Often snow tires are recommended but they are a more expensive option than chains. If you live in metropolitan area, road crews typically address snow and ice in the first 24 hours. In the greater St. Louis area, we are not typically banned from the roadways for more than 24-48 hours during a winter storm
    • If you do not have to drive during winter storms, then do not. Snowy or icy roads are always a risk, thus avoid the trip if it is not absolutely necessary.

Other Safety Measures for Driving in Missouri Winters

As we never know when some wintry weather will hit in the Midwest, there are some things you can do prepare.

Keep emergency cold-weather items in case you are stranded. This is actually a great time to restock your emergency kit in your vehicle. These emergency kits are in case you swerve into the ditch or are stuck in traffic for a prolonged period of time. For the unexpected reasons, carry a flashlight, extra blankets, food and water in your vehicle. These items are kind of the basics. Some drivers in northern states really prepare and we ought to do so more aggressively in the Midwest. How often have we seen stranded motorists due to snow storm stranded for hours. Would you be prepared? Most of us are not.

Emergency Kit Items

In addition to a flashlight, food (granola bars, nuts, raisins, etc), water is essential. It is a great idea to have some warm clothes for layering and blankets in the trunk for emergencies. Some other items to consider include:

Jumper cables–You just never know when you will need a battery jump or find fellow traveler stranded in front of you

Cat litter–no, not for your feline friend, but it is a less expensive corrosive equivalent to road salt. A bag in your car could really assist if you slid into the ditch.

First aid kit– these is actually a good idea for the entire year.

Ice scraper. Most of us probably have these in their storage compartment, but be sure to double check. Improvising with other items in the vehicle are a real struggle. If you haven’t attempted to use a common lid or fast food utensil to scrape ice, you just don’t know how valuable a real scrapper is. Yes, many of us have been there and reminded to actually prepare for winter.

Shovel. If your vehicle gets stuck, a shovel is self-explanatory.

Road flares/reflective device. Other vehicles may not see you or even be paying attention. Some reflection/lights are extremely helpful to reduce the chances of other vehicles plowing into you.

Phone charger. Again, like the shovel seems really obvious. It is so important to have a working cell phone to call for help, weather updates and everything in between.

Warm hat and gloves. If you’ve lost or misplaced your gloves, hats and scarves, now is the time to dig those out of winter storage. Hand warmers are another good idea of something to stock in your winter emergency kit

Winter Roadway Safety

In addition to inclement weather, we also have less hours of sunlight. Risks of crashes rise in the dark hours for the obvious reason that visibility is lower. Often, simply orientating yourself for more challenging driving conditions improves your safety. When we perceive that driving conditions might be more hazardous, we tend to be a little more patient, pay more attention and reduce our driving speeds. Two things that drastically reduce the chances of a car crashes the entire year include slowing down and paying attention.

Slow Down

Too many of us drive too fast. Excluding the whole inconvenience of a speeding citation, the bigger issue is loss of control of the vehicle and less reaction time. Excessive speed generally increases the severity of a crash. Patience is not something many of us possess in excess, however, on the roadway, we actually need to slow down and think about being a little patient. Slowing down is really important in winter weather. While losing control of your vehicle is a nightmare scenario any time of year, it is almost guaranteed if you are speeding on a wintery mix of weather.

Pay Attention

Of course the biggest obstacle to paying attention generally include our obsession with being able to use our phones and iPad while driving. You should avoid all forms of texting whether it is direct texts or communicating in phone applications. If you are typing in an app so that you can say that you were not “texting” directly, the result is still the same. There are so many hands free options available to engage in inattentive driving. As car crash attorneys, we still see so many life-changing injuries from crashes that were 100 percent preventable.

When someone is in a crash because another driver was engaged in distracted driving, it generates a lot of righteous anger. It is astounding that in 2023, we still have people texting and driving in spite of the decade of consumer information and safety information. When people are seriously injured in a crash due to an error on your part, you really do not want to add insult to injury by driving distracted. Needlessly endangering yourself is one thing, but endangering others is quite different. Much like those injured by drunk drivers, drivers who still engage in distracting driving know better.

Injured in a Car Crash

As vehicles are still driven by human beings, humans make errors. Some errors are more egregious that others. Climbing behind the wheel after spending several hours having cocktails is one of those things we all know is reckless, dangerous and possibly criminal. We all must strive to follow all of the rules of the roadway for other’s safety and ours. If you are in a crash and are hurt, you will need a lawyer. After a crash, you will have a lot of question. Our attorneys answer those questions, talk to you about protecting your options and provide guidance.

We are available seven days a week, toll free 1.800.685.3302 or locally 314.276.1681

Contact Us Today

The Cagle Law Firm serves accident and injury clients throughout St. Louis and the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, including the eastern Missouri and southern Illinois communities. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance with your personal injury case, call The Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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