The recent winter storm left thousands of Georgians stranded on icy, wreck-strewn highways, dealing with stalled cars and jack-knifed tractor trailers. The winter storm also left behind more than 1,200 car accidents and 130 injuries, according to the Georgia Highway Patrol.
The governor’s office has acknowledged that the state’s lack of responsiveness before the storm contributed to the gridlock as the storm made roads impassable and stranded commuters. Hundreds of Atlanta motorists were forced to abandon their cars, sleep in their cars and have children sleep at school because parents simply couldn’t pick them up.
Understandably, many Atlanta drivers are unaccustomed to driving on snow and ice. It can be dangerous if you’re not used to how a car handles in the snow.
Here are some defensive driving tips to help keep you safe during snowy and icy conditions:
- Increase your distance. Extend the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you from two car lengths to three.
- Reduce your speed. Decrease your overall speed to allow you to react to weather conditions and other vehicles.
- Brake gently. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump them, but apply steady pressure. You will feel the brakes pulse. This is normal.
- Turn your lights on. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
- Use low gears. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Avoid cruise control. Never use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
- Slow down on bridges, overpasses and less traveled roads. Although we’ve all seen the signs, bridges and overpasses really do freeze before roads. Less traveled roads are more likely to be frozen – especially if they are in shady areas.
- Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. Truck drivers have limited visibility and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
- Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Many four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles cannot handle winter conditions and having “all-weather” radial tires generally doesn’t help.
- React properly to skidding. Reacting properly to skidding is likely one of the more difficult things to learn about winter driving. Here’s what to do when your rear or front wheels skid:
- Rear wheels. If your rear wheels skid, take your foot off the accelerator. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right until you can get your vehicle under control.
- Front wheels. If your front wheels skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.
The best guidance is to pay attention weather travel advisories and stay off the roads when they are icy or covered with snow. If you get stuck, it’s best to try rocking the car (if you’ve got help), using sand or salt, or simply call for a tow truck. The latter will almost always keep you the safest.
If you have been in an accident caused by another driver, find out what to do by discussing your situation with an experienced car accident lawyer.