Why Every Winter Sees a Surge in Car Accidents - Newport Paper House

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Why Every Winter Sees a Surge in Car Accidents

 

Every year, without fail, there’s a massive spike in the number of car accidents when winter rolls around. The root cause is obvious: inclement winter weather. In many areas, the winter is associated with heavy snowfall, which can obstruct your vehicle as well as your visibility, ice, which reduces traction and is occasionally invisible, wind, hail, and even fog. In other areas, snow is a rarity – so it’s that much more devastating in the uncommon instances in which it falls.

But the rise in winter weather driving accidents is about more than just snow and ice. There are secondary variables that make snow and ice dangerous.

Slow Responsiveness

Most cities in the United States do their best to deploy salt trucks, snowplows, and other vehicles to clear the roads for ordinary motorists. But their best isn’t always enough. A delay of even a few hours can mean the difference between a rush hour commute being reasonable and it resulting in a multi-car pileup. Some cities simply don’t have the resources, training, experience, or personnel to deploy an adequate response force in time to prevent accidents.

Arrogance and Stubbornness

We all know at least one person who thinks of themselves as an amazing driver. They disregard laws at their own discretion and believe that if they’re ever involved in a skid or a dangerous situation, they’d be able to steer their way out of it (even if they haven’t had this experience). This is often because of the illusory superiority effect – a cognitive bias that forces a person to overestimate their own abilities. It’s why most drivers rate their driving abilities as “better than average.”

In most scenarios, this is a harmless effect. But in winter, it can be deadly. If there’s a brutal snowstorm rolling outside, the best course of action is to avoid driving altogether, staying inside until the storm passes. But a driver afflicted with this effect will believe themselves capable of handling any condition, and will venture out anyway, putting themselves and others at risk.

Lack of Experience

Some people just don’t have enough experience to handle winter weather appropriately. Every year, a new generation of young drivers experiences snow and ice on the road for the first time ever. They can’t reasonably be expected to handle this with ample caution and maturity. Similarly, some cities get a rare burst of snowfall or icy conditions in an otherwise warm climate; this almost always results in a surge of accidents due to naturally inexperienced drivers.

Lack of Preparation

Car accidents also tend to increase in winter because of a lack of driver preparation. It doesn’t take much time or effort to prepare yourself for winter weather. Putting on snow tires, filling your windshield wiper fluid, replacing your wiper blades, and maintaining the vehicle on a basic level can all increase its performance in winter weather. But this is too much for some drivers to bother with.

Lower Visibility

Snow, hail, and other winter weather conditions can all reduce visibility. But there’s another winter-related factor that can reduce visibility as well: longer periods of nighttime. Due to the Earth’s position relative to the sun, winter is associated with an earlier sunset and a later sunrise. Car accidents are much more likely to occur in the dark, when drivers have difficulty seeing. An increase in the number of dark hours is unavoidably going to increase accidents.

How to Stay Safe While Driving in Winter

If you’re going to drive during winter, there are several steps that can keep you safe:

Avoid driving. If the conditions look bad, your best option is to avoid driving altogether. If a heavy winter storm is approaching, consider staying where you are. Do you really need to go out? Can you stay the night here?

Maintain your vehicle. Before winter (when possible), give your vehicle a thorough inspection. Keep your brakes, tires, and fluids in proper shape, and winterize your vehicle when appropriate.

Prepare for the worst. Always prepare for the worst. In your car, you should have an emergency kit that includes extra clothes, extra food and water, adequate lighting and signaling, and kitty litter (for traction on snow and ice). Brushes, ice scrapers, and a shovel can also help. Also, keep your fuel tank full when possible.

Slow down. You’ll have much more control over your vehicle if you drive slowly, accelerating and decelerating as gradually as possible.

Increase following distance. Similarly, you’ll want to increase your following distance so you have more time to react to the actions of the vehicles in front of you.

There’s no technology or infrastructural advancement that can reduce winter accidents to zero. However, you can realize the complicating factors that increase car accidents disproportionately and do your part to drive safer. 

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