Winter months bring colder temperatures and unpredictable weather to Fort Worth, Texas. During these months, road conditions may be slick, which can significantly increase the risk of car crashes.
The legal team at Anderson & Cummings shares some practical but vital tips to help drivers navigate highways and other roads during winter more safely. While accidents can happen, following these guidelines could greatly reduce your chances of being involved in a winter car crash.
If you get injured in a crash due to another driver’s negligence, our Fort Worth auto accident lawyers are prepared to help you recover compensation for your damages.
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What Winter Driving Risks Could I See in Fort Worth?
Fort Worth does not have extremely harsh winters like some northern states, but even milder winter conditions can create hazardous driving situations. For instance, you might encounter unexpected icy patches or black ice. During winter, decreased visibility due to an earlier nightfall is also a problem. Winter road conditions can very quickly turn into danger zones.
What Winter Safety Driving Tips Can Help Reduce the Risk of a Crash?
Driving safely in winter begins with taking some simple but key steps, which include the following:
Maintain Your Vehicle and Get it Winter-Ready
The last thing you want is to get stranded in winter because you failed to maintain your vehicle. As temperatures drop, many mechanical auto parts may fail if not properly serviced.
Maintaining your vehicle and making sure it is ready for winter means:
- Checking your brakes: Regardless of the time of year, brakes are crucial in preventing accidents. This is especially true on wet, slippery or icy roads.
- Inspect your tires: Make sure your tires have adequate tread for traction on wet or icy roads. Consider changing to winter tires or high-quality all-season tires if you often drive in icy conditions.
- Check your battery: Cold weather affects battery performance, so get it checked and replace it, if necessary.
- Maintain your windshield wipers: Ensure your wipers are in good working condition to help keep your windshield cleared and cleaned for maximum visibility.
- Keep vehicle fluids topped up: Check your window washer fluid, anti-freeze and other fluids before, during and even after winter is over.
- Maintain your vehicle’s lights: Get your headlights, brake lights, turn signals and other lights checked to be sure they are in working condition. These lights all play an important role in keeping you safer on the road. In winter, they help give you greater visibility so other drivers can see you. Using your turn signal properly can also help alert other drivers when you are turning or changing lanes.
Drivers owe a duty of care to others, and maintaining your vehicle is part of that legal responsibility. If you fail to maintain your vehicle, you could liable for damages if a crash occurs as a result.
Stay Informed About the Weather and Any Crashes on Your Planned Route
Avoid going out in severe winter weather whenever possible. If you must go out, be sure to check which roads have already been cleared. Primary roads, such as major highways, are typically cleared before any secondary roads. Check local news channels, traffic apps, or social media updates from the Fort Worth Transportation Department. If there are crashes on your planned route, try to avoid the area.
When driving in bad winter weather, be sure to do the following:
Slow Down and Increase Following Distance
Speeding is a leading cause of accidents year-round, and it is even more dangerous in winter. Slow down to give you more time to react to unexpected situations. You should also increase your following distance from the car ahead of you to give you a better chance to stop safely if you encounter slick roads.
Avoid Sudden Movements
Abrupt turns, hard braking, or rapid acceleration are all movements that could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, especially on icy, wet or slippery surfaces. Taking your time and doing gentle maneuvers are your best bet for maintaining control of your vehicle.
Know What To Do if Your Vehicle Begins to Skid
If your vehicle starts to skid, remain calm. Keep both hands on the wheel and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Do not slam on the brakes as this can exacerbate the skid and cause you to lose control.
Plan Your Route and Allow Extra Time
This tip is key. Drivers who do not leave enough time may increase their risk of crashing by speeding on bad winter roads. Before heading out, make a habit of checking the weather and traffic reports. Plan your route accordingly and allow extra time for your journey. Rushing in bad weather increases your risk of an accident.
Keep a Safe Following Distance from Snowplows and Road Maintenance Vehicles
Always give snowplows and maintenance vehicles plenty of room. They are there to make the roads safer, but they need space to work effectively.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Creating a well-equipped winter vehicle emergency kit is crucial for staying safe during the colder months, especially in areas prone to severe weather conditions. Here is a comprehensive list of items to include in your kit:
- First-Aid kit: Essential for any medical emergencies or minor injuries.
- Blankets or sleeping bags: Vital for keeping warm if stranded in cold temperatures.
- Extra warm clothing: This includes hats, gloves, scarves, and extra layers.
- Flashlight and extra batteries: For visibility during nighttime emergencies.
- Non-perishable snacks: Such as energy bars, nuts or dried fruits.
- Water bottles: To prevent dehydration.
- Ice scraper and snow brush: Crucial for clearing your windshield and car of snow and ice.
- Shovel: A small, foldable shovel can help dig your car out of the snow.
- Sand, kitty litter or traction mats: These can provide traction if your vehicle is stuck in snow or on ice.
- Jumper cables: In case your or another vehicle’s battery dies.
- Tow rope or strap: Useful if you or another vehicle needs to be towed from a ditch or snowbank.
- Windshield washer fluid: High-quality, no-freeze fluid is essential.
- Portable phone charger or power bank: To keep your mobile phone charged in emergencies.
- Basic tool kit: Including items like pliers, screwdrivers and an adjustable wrench.
- Road flares or reflective warning triangles: For signaling and increasing visibility.
- Whistle: To attract attention if needed.
- Map: Physical maps can be useful in areas with poor cellular service.
- Emergency contact information: Including family contacts, insurance, roadside assistance, etc.
- Seat belt cutter and window breaker tool: In case of an accident where you need to exit quickly.
- Spare tire, tire jack and tire iron: For changing a flat tire.
- Antifreeze/coolant: Especially important in colder climates.
- Paper towels or rags: Useful for cleaning and various other needs.
- Extra prescription medications: If you or a regular passenger has essential medications.
- Hand warmers: Disposable or rechargeable hand warmers can provide quick warmth.
Remember, the goal of a winter vehicle emergency kit is to keep you safe and comfortable should you become stranded. It is also intended to help you deal with common winter driving issues. Tailor your kit to your specific travel needs and local winter weather conditions.
Distracted driving is dangerous any time of year, but especially in winter. Stay focused on the road, watching other vehicles and for areas, like bridges and overpasses, that may have black ice, since these areas tend to freeze first.
Keep your phone within reach in case you need to pull over and call because of an emergency.
Know When to Stay Off the Roads
Sometimes, the safest decision is not to drive at all. If the weather is particularly bad, consider calling out of work or postponing your trip if possible.
Call Our Trusted Law Firm To Discuss Your Situation
Despite your best efforts, accidents can still happen. In that situation, it is important to seek legal help as soon after a crash as possible.
At Anderson & Cummings, we have been helping injured victims in Fort Worth for decades. Our legal team has extensive knowledge of state laws and a history of proven results.
Not sure if you have a case? We offer a free initial consultation to determine your potential legal options. There is no obligation and no upfront costs or fees if we represent you. We only get paid if you do.
Experienced Lawyers. Working for you. (817) 920-9000