Winter begins this Saturday, and that means only one thing.
No, not another ugly Christmas sweater from Aunt Gladys. Well, hopefully not.
The winter season will likely bring bad weather and even worse driving conditions, which translates to fender benders, crashes and a myriad of other headaches for drivers.
In fact, according to PennDOT’s 2012 Crash Facts book, there were more car crashes in December than in any other month of the year, with 12,389 reported crashes throughout the month.
So what is the best way to stay on the road and out of the body shop?
“Really the No. 1 thing is to slow down,” Jenny Robinson, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a phone interview. “You want to have room to maneuver and maintain control without hitting anyone else.”
It’s simple advice, but in the heat of the moment on an ice-cold night, it can save drivers money and time.
In fact, Robinson said that if you feel yourself losing control of your vehicle, it’s best to try to remain calm and, most importantly, “don’t slam on the brakes.”
“It’s better to take your foot off the gas and gently brake and stay as calm as you can,” Robinson said. “Sudden braking can lead to a loss of control, particularly when traveling in icy conditions more than 25 miles per hour. I know that’s very hard if you’re facing an imminent situation but if you can keep your wits about you, you’re much better off.”
Robinson also highlighted some of AAA’s other tips for driving in the winter, which include checking your tires and wiper blades routinely and keeping an emergency road kit on hand.
Your road kit should include a flashlight with fresh batteries, jumper cables, sand or cat litter and an ice scraper and snow brush.
Adding to the difficulties of winter driving is the fact that the holiday season coincides with bad driving weather.
While common knowledge suggests that New Year’s Eve might be the most dangerous night for driving, PennDOT statistics show that this isn’t the case anymore. In fact, according to last year’s Crash Facts book, New Year’s was one of the more tame holidays in terms of crashes, with only 766 accidents and five fatalities.
“The popular perception is that it’s very dangerous but a lot of people have heeded the warnings,” Robinson said, noting that crash statistics for New Year’s and Christmas are down. “It’s still important to not be complacent about it and make sure that whatever you plan for the holidays is done safely.”
Bill Brady, executive director of Bucks Transportation Management Agency, a transportation advocacy organization, said that his organization encourages drivers to take precautions during the winter to avoid accidents.
“There’s a lot of information out there and a lot to consider, but we tend to take driving for granted,” Brady said. “We’re looking for street signs or listening to the radio. It’s a very dangerous situation, especially in bad weather.”
Brady said that drivers should completely clear snow off of their cars before driving, as loose snow can be hazardous to other drivers. Furthermore, he added that keeping headlights on can help to ensure that other drivers can see you, even in snowy conditions.
And as for the holidays?
“Police departments have shown that people take more risks during the holidays,” Brady said. “You need to really evaluate what you want to do and be safe.” ••
For more driving tips for the winter months, visit tmabucks.com.