This patch of winter weather has been intense, so Attorney Marc Lopez recently turned to Attorney Jamison Allen for some tips on safe driving in snowy, icy conditions. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation.
The weather outside is frightful, so I asked my good friend and Associate Attorney Jamison Allen to give us some safe driving advice. He’s been doing personal injury for 17, 18 years, and he’s seen it all. So, Attorney Allen, give us some advice on how to stay safe on these crazy roads.
For folks who grew up in the northern climates, they already know a lot of this. But maybe you’re a young driver, or you grew up somewhere warm, and driving in snow and ice like the craziness we have now—that’s pretty difficult.
So first thing is don’t drive unless you have to. That solves the problem. You can plan ahead, work from home, get your food a week ahead of time so you don’t need to run out for bread and milk—you’re good.
Second thing is if you have to drive, give yourself enough time. A lot of people don’t do this. You have to scrape your car, and you might have to shovel yourself out, and that requires waking up a little early. Plus you need more time because of slower moving traffic.
Third thing: Prepare your vehicle. Make sure you have washer fluid. Make sure you have food and water and a blanket in there, especially if you drive on the interstate. If you haven’t already, get to know your vehicle’s safety features. If you have traction control, make sure that it’s engaged and that you know how to use it.
Fourth, slow down when you’re driving. When you go slower, you give yourself extra time to observe, extra time to decide what to do, and extra time to safely control your vehicle.
Fifth, give yourself extra stopping distance. Most of us are used to just deciding to stop whenever we want. When you’re in cold weather conditions—snow and especially ice—you really have to think about it and give yourself extra time. You need to drive slower, hit that break sooner, and assume that you’re going to slide a little bit.
Sixth thing: Give yourself extra time to complete your driving moves. It’s probably going to take you a little bit longer to get through that intersection than what you’re used to, because you’re going to hit some snow and your tires might spin a bit.
Seventh, don’t make any assumptions. If you see cars coming, don’t just assume they’re going to stop at that stop sign. They might not be driving carefully. Don’t assume that other drivers will do what they’re supposed to.
Eighth thing: Long, long ago, back when I was in driver’s ed., they taught us that if you’re fishtailing, you should turn in the way that your back end is going. So if you’re fishtailing to the right, turn your wheel to the right. If you’re fishtailing left, turn left. I’ve done this a few times, and all that happens is vroom—you spin yourself out because you’re overcorrecting. What the experts say now is, just turn the wheel where you want the car to go. Don’t jerk it this way and that way—all you do is point the front of the car where you want it to go, and that way you won’t overcorrect. This should give you the best shot at getting out of your spin.
Last couple of things: Be courteous. Don’t force someone else to put their brakes on or make a quick decision. Be a good driver, and that protects you as well. Quick example: On the interstate, a lot of people see two semi-trucks, and they see a space in between those trucks, and they think, Oh, that space is about the size of my car. Trying to fit in between two semis is never a good idea, but it’s especially bad in the winter. If the rear truck has to put on its brakes and it slides, guess what? You’re going to be sandwiched. That’s not good.
Finally, the last thing is practice. If you need practice or you have a young driver who needs practice, go find an empty parking lot. Most people use a rural church parking lot, or something like that. Make sure you get permission first—don’t get yourself in trouble—but you can practice on ice and learn how to do it. You won’t be quite so intimidated, and you’ll be safe. That’s all I’ve got.
Jamison, what about the folks that have four-wheel drive? Folks who are like, No, I got an SUV, I got four-wheel drive—I don’t gotta listen to any of that. Can you tell us a little about that, with what we’ve seen through countless automobile accidents?
Excellent point, Marc. Four-wheel drive will not save you on the ice. If you’re going to be sliding, it doesn’t matter whether you have two wheels moving or four—you’re going to be sliding. In fact, you’re probably going to be more of a danger because you’re in a bigger, heavier vehicle, and you have the potential to cause more harm.
Four-wheel drive can’t help you out of every situation. Snow can be too deep, even for four-wheel drive vehicles. And to return to my point about being courteous, four-wheel drives can make it difficult for other folks who are having a hard time on the road, where all of a sudden, a four-wheel drive SUV flies by and throws all this snow and ice up on you and muddy up your windshield. Not a good situation to be in, so if you have a four-wheel drive—great. Sometimes they’re needed, but you have to use them for what they’re made to be used for.
What a great end of this conversation: Be courteous. Half the problems in this world would be solved if we were just more courteous. So just like Jamison said, if you have a four-wheel drive, watch out for the other folks on the road.
Jamison, thank you so much, I hope you get a chance to build a snowman today.
I don’t think that would go well, but I’ll watch the kids do it. I’ll be good and warm in my house.
You have a great day, buddy. Thanks!