How to stay safe driving in the snow and more
By: Meagan Baron
January 15, 2020
Winter Wonderland is fun when sipping hot cocoa or having snowball fights. But, when it comes to your safety on the road and at home, it can be a little stressful and dangerous. Mosaic Insurance Alliance gathered some snow tips that we hope you, your friends, and your family find useful. Stay safe out there, friends!
How to Prep for The Snow:
Prepping your car and home for snow, and other things like heavy rain and winds, is something to aim for every year before winter sinks in. Living in the Pacific Northwest where snow does not happen very often can cause us to get a little sidetracked on prepping for harsh weather conditions. But it is something that won’t take too much out of your day, and you’ll be very grateful that you did take the time if snow does happen. Plus, many of these tips help you be safe in rain and wind as well, and we all know that Washington is famous for rain!
To help be more prepared for snow, some good tips to follow include:
- Have car insurance coverage that will help protect you
- Have good tires—tread and air pressure
- Get your car inspected and see if it needs to be realigned
- Check and top off all your fluids
- Get regular oil changes
- Inspect your brakes to ensure that they are in good condition
- Check your car heater and defrost to make sure they are working properly
- Have tire chains if needed
- Read up on tips for driving in the snow for your area (i.e. hills make a huge difference!)
- Make sure that your home(s) has coverage, whether it be owner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, or landlord insurance in case you suffer damages, or someone gets hurt on your property.
- If you own a business, make sure that your building and property are also covered for possible injuries and damages.
- Have a snow shovel, sand, and salt
- Maintain your roof so that it has no leaks and is sturdy (cave-ins aren’t fun).
- Keep your driveway safe of snow, ice, flooding, etc. Mud can also be dangerous.
- Have a generator ready to use if needed
- Keep a storage of candles, flashlights, lighters/matches, and batteries for automatic light in case you lose power
- Have heaters that are working efficiently.
- Be ready for warmth backup plans in case you lose power, your hot water tank has issues, or your heater is on the fritz…
- Backup parts that you know how to install
- Contacts of repairmen nearby
- Lots of blankets
- Portable heaters
- Ample amounts of dry firewood/pellets if you have a fireplace
- Instant heat packs
- Ample insulation
- Nicely sealed windows and doors
Tips for Driving in The Snow:
Snow can be very intimidating and unpredictable. Knowing tips like the ones below before you drive can help you prevent bad situations and remain calm during them if they do happen.
1. Tips for getting into frozen car doors:
- Keep an extra window scraper and spray bottle with wiper fluid outside of your car so you can melt and dislodge ice. Spray around the door cracks, hinges, and latch.
- If you have a key fob, use that over a key since locks will be really stiff.
- After unlocking the car, use the bottom of your palm to hit the edges around the side of the door where the crack is. Start at the door handle and work your way around the top of the door. When hitting the door, you will want to use some force, but you don’t need much. Doing this will help break away some of the ice in and around the door crack.
- Try to keep your doorways clear periodically. For example, if it is snowing a lot, scrape and spray the door every few hours to help keep ice from forming.
2. Let your car warm up.
When you are replacing items or buying something entirely new, look for ones that are Energy Star rated and/or proven to be more efficient and last longer.
3. How to get snow off car windows:
Spray your windows with windshield wiper fluid and use a window scraper. Also, if you spray your windows often, like before you leave your car after a drive, you can limit the amount of ice the next time you drive it. A dry towel on your clean windshield can also help remove snow and keep ice from forming.
4. Remove snow from your roof and hood.
Leaving it on can cause some chunks to fall onto your windshield as you are driving. You want to make sure that your vision is always clear.
5. Keep defrost on for front and back windshields.
Fog can build up fast, especially if multiple people are in the car. Keeping defrost on can help ensure that your windows stay clear.
6. Keep a bigger distance between you and cars in front of you.
The one vehicle rule gap that you normally follow might need to be stretched bigger to ensure that you can stop in time.
7. Be cautious when using your brakes.
In rain or snow, we sometimes forget the time it takes to stop, and the pressure to use on our brakes, are different than on dry pavement under the sun. If you hit them too fast or too hard, you can cause yourself to skid and get into an accident. Keeping a bigger distance between you and other cars will help you, but you should also be aware of stopping speeds. Pumping your brakes can help you stop more efficiently, as well as get noticed by drivers behind you since your brake lights will be flashing. As a general rule, slowly easing into your brake and holding it steadily as you go down a hill will help you get traction and avoid sliding.
8. Take it slow.
In snow, the speed limit tends to be too fast for weather conditions. Most experts say that you should not exceed 45 mi/hr on any roads that could be icy. The Federal Motor Carrier Administration says that on snowy/icy roads, your speed should be half the speed limit. Also take your time around turns and when accelerating. Accelerating too fast can be as dangerous as fast braking. Be cautious when changing lanes as well.
9. Drive in pathways already made.
You will get more traction on bare areas of the road where previous cars have made tracks. Also, others do this, so you will stay with traffic.
10. Avoid hills and bridges if you can.
In the Pacific Northwest, it is almost impossible to avoid a hill. Try your best to avoid big, long, and/or steep hills, especially ones with turns at the bottom. Go for as many flat roads as possible, and if you can’t avoid all hills, try to map out a route with hills that are little, get decent traffic, and/or would likely be plowed/sanded. Bridges should be avoided because they get colder than regular roads because of open airflow, so they are usually icier and more dangerous.
11. If you do not know the area, route accordingly.
Determine the best route based on hills, traffic, and plowing. Frequented roads tend to have less ice and snow buildup. Highways can be safest during the snow because they tend to be clearer. Remote backroads tend to be icier since they are less frequented and plowed. They also tend to have more hills, have less lightening, have more turns, and have less people who can call an ambulance if you are incapacitated after an accident.
12. If you are having difficulties stopping and fear you cannot stop before an intersection (red light, stop sign, cross walk, etc.), honk your horn continuously.
This tells other drivers that you cannot stop and that they need to try to avoid you. This tends to happen when going down hills, so be cautious and alert when you and others are going down hills.
13. Use 4-wheel-drive if you have it and it works.
Also, know how to engage it and use it safely. Look up some information on your car, practice engaging and disengaging in a safe area with no cars, and read up on some tips before you use it. Some good tips include:
- 4Lo has to be engaged in neutral. Make sure that your foot is not on the gas.
- 4Hi has to be engaged when in 2Hi (not 4Lo). Chevrolet says that for 4Hi, “your front axle may engage faster if you take your foot off of the accelerator for a few seconds after you shift.” You can engage 4Hi when you are moving at any speed, but Chevy says that you can also come to a stop or slow down to engage it, especially if it is super slippery on the roads.
- 4Lo is for extremely bad conditions and tasks at slower speeds—like going up a mountain. Chevrolet says that 4Lo “should be used only for off-road driving.”
- Jeep recommends that you do not to go over 25 mi/hr in 4Lo and not over 55 mi/hr in 4Hi. The best thing to do is consult the manufacturer car manual for your exact make, model, and year.
- If you are having troubles remembering which setting is for which, think of it this way: 4Lo = lower speeds. (Just like how lower gears in a car are for lower speeds.)
- Do not drive in 4Hi/4Lo when the ground is dry. It is meant for wet, muddy, snowy, and/or icy roads. Dry roads can damage your car and/or cause an accident.
- Do not keep your car in 4Hi/4Lo for extended periods of time. It is meant for when you really need it. Chevrolet says that driving in 4-wheel-drive for extended periods of time, or on dry roads, can cause damage to your drivetrain/front axels.
- Consult a professional for opinions on your car and where you are driving.
14. Be more alert the entire time.
When it comes to snow, be more alert than normal, and be even more alert in certain areas and when performing certain tasks. For example:
- Pay special attention to hills, roads with sharp turns, bridges, unpaved roads, roads with cliffs, etc.
- When taking any turn, go slow and ease into it. Taking turns at fast speeds or jerking the wheel too abruptly can make you lose control of your vehicle.
- When approaching a light, pay attention to the likelihood of it changing so that you can come to a safe stop or get through safely. This is especially important on roads with fast speeds.
- Go slow over train tracks.
- If stopped on a hill going up, slowly hit your gas so that your tires do not skid. If you drive a stick, make sure that your clutch is completely down so that your car won’t turn off, and make sure that you are ready to hit your brake if needed so that you don’t roll into the car behind you.
15. Have plenty of windshield wiper fluid.
Make sure that your car's reservoir is full.
16. Keep your windows and mirrors clean.
Streaks can be avoided with a simple mixture of ½ water and ½ distilled white vinegar. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and use a rag or paper towels inside your windows to get out dust, smears, fingerprints, etc.
17. Know your vehicle.
All cars are different. For example, front vs. rear-wheel drive makes a huge difference in stopping and going. Make sure that you know what your car is like and the best way to control it. Engine size and manual vs. automatic is also a huge factor when it comes to snow. Also, even if two people have the same make, year, and model of a car, their cars will be different. Knowing your car and listening to it can help you keep better control of it as well as notice a problem earlier.
18. Consult reliable sources for tips in other situations that you might face.
For example, Icy Road Safety has a tip video on correcting a slide, as well as other tips.
How to Keep Your House Safe in The Snow:
When people think of snow safety, they tend to focus on driving. But, also make sure that you consider your home. For example, your house can get cold fast if your heater/power goes out, you can get sued if your driveway is icy and someone slips and gets hurt, snow can weigh a lot and damage your roof, and once the snow starts melting, your home and/or yard could get flooded. Those are just a few scenarios—much more can happen! Read on for some tips to help keep your house safe against snow.
1. Have a snow shovel ready.
Buying a snow shovel before snow strikes is the best option. You might need to shovel a pathway for your car to be able to get out and drive to the store. Also, even if you do get to the store on foot or by car, snow shovels get sold out fast in states like Washington. It is a good idea to have a backup too incase one breaks.
2. Clear your driveway, sidewalk, and other pathways with a shovel.
A wheelbarrow would also be helpful so that you can wheel the access snow somewhere far from the pathway.
3. Salt/sand your driveway and other areas.
Snow salt helps you melt the snow, and sand helps you get more traction so that slipping doesn’t happen as often or as bad. Pay attention to your driveway, sidewalk, deck, and outside stairs.
4. Have your porch light on at night.
This will help you and others on your property see so that they are less likely to get hurt when walking in the dusk/dark.
5. Make sure that your home and yard are ready for lots of water.
Once the snow melts, water will be everywhere.
- Make sure to be ready and look out for possible issues, especially if you live in/near a flood zone, live by a river that is known to flood, have outside drains near your home or on your property, etc.
- Make sure that any storm drains are unclogged and draining efficiently.
- Check your garage and basement to see if flooding has occurred or can occur.
- Check the rooms above your roof and see if there are any leaks.
You can share these tips with your loved ones on social media and in email. If you have any questions or want to explore your insurance options, we are just a phone call away! We wish you the best of luck!