Icy and snowy roads are dangerous. They decrease your ability to successfully control your vehicle, they can limit visibility, and they make it harder to come to a stop – meaning a single vehicular collision can lead to a catastrophic domino effect.
To make matters worse, since winter collisions are so common and so potentially severe, the risk of sustaining an injury in a car accident is significant.
What should you do after a winter car accident? And how can you avoid them altogether?
What to Do After a Winter Car Accident
If you’ve been in an accident because of icy roads, snowy conditions, or other winter weather, these are the most important steps to take:
· Get to safety. Depending on the nature of the crash, your car may or may not be drivable. Either way, if you’re on the road, you’re in danger and are posing a danger to others. It’s important to get yourself and anyone with you to safety as quickly as possible to avoid further injuries and further accidents.
· Contact help. Next, call for help. If anyone has been injured in the accident, request emergency medical services. Otherwise, contact the police and wait for them to arrive so you can file an official report; police reports serve as an official record of the crash, which is important for insurance and legal purposes.
· Collect evidence (if you can). Once you’ve taken care of this, start collecting any evidence you can. Use photos and videos to capture evidence of the damage, as well as the surrounding conditions that led to the accident. Take note of any other people or cars involved in the accident and write down a statement of how you perceived these events unfolding.
· Stay warm. In the winter, it’s especially important to stay warm. Add extra layers of clothing if you have them, and try to stay in your car, where you’ll be protected from the elements. If you’re stranded, run the car only periodically to keep the heat reasonable without wasting fuel; turning the car on for 10 minutes every hour could be a good pattern for this.
· Improve visibility. Consider helping to prevent further crashes in these little visibility conditions by improving the visibility for others. Turn on your cars warning lights, set up reflectors, or use flares to minimize the possibility of other drivers colliding with your vehicle.
The Importance of Being Prepared
Fortunately, even winter car accidents are mostly preventable, assuming you take the right precautions.
First, prepare your car with a winter survival kit that includes:
· Cat litter (or something similar for traction). Cat litter is abundant, inexpensive, and extremely useful for generating traction in icy conditions. If your car is stuck or unable to get momentum, some kind of traction material could be exactly what you need.
· Extra clothes, food, and water. It never hurts to have extra clothes, food, and water on standby in case you’re stranded for a prolonged period of time. Make sure you have plenty of items for everyone in your vehicle.
· Visibility tools. Reflectors, flares, flashlights, and other visibility tools are important for protecting our safety as well as helping you see in otherwise dark conditions.
· Heating elements. Secure a couple of heating options in case your car heater isn’t enough. A small, portable heater and hand warmers are good choices.
· A foldable shovel. Foldable shovels are compact, yet strong enough to help you dig out of even deep levels of snow. Keep one in your vehicle at all times.
· A first aid kit. You should also have a complete first aid kit in your car.
These can help survive in a number of bad situations.
Next, drive with extra caution:
· Avoid bad conditions entirely. Icy roads are responsible for 1,836 deaths annually in the United States, and 136,309 injuries. No matter how much experience you have, or how confident you feel driving on icy roads, it’s a good idea to avoid the worst winter weather entirely. Pay attention to the forecast and avoid driving unless absolutely necessary during especially harsh conditions.
· Keep your headlights on. Drive with your headlights (but not your high beams) on.
· Slow down and increase following distance. During icy or snowy conditions, it’s wise to reduce your speed and increase your following distance. You’ll have more time to react to things around you and if you get into a collision, it won’t be as severe.
· Practice winter driving. Consider practicing your winter driving skills in parking lots or other low-risk areas so you get more experience.
Even the best drivers sometimes have accidents, so it’s important to be especially vigilant in winter, when bad weather can make accidents both more likely and more devastating. Do what you can to prevent winter accidents, and be prepared to take the proper course of action should one ever happen to you.