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Insurance and safety tips for winter driving

December 1, 2015
When driving on snowy roads, be sure to accelerate and decelerate slowly.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are more than 5,870,000 automobile accidents every year, many of which are due to adverse weather conditions. Rain, sleet, heavy winds, snow, fog and ice can all contribute to dangerous driving conditions and increase the risk of accidents.

"Seventeen percent of all accidents occur during snow or sleet.”

Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when those poor weather conditions are more common. The DOT has found 17 percent of all accidents occur during snow or sleet. Additionally, 12 percent occur due to icy pavement and another 14 percent are related to snowy or slushy pavement.

In addition to placing you or your family in danger, accidents can also increase your insurance rates. Keep your premiums down and protect yourself and those around you by following these safe driving tips:

Winter safety precautions

Start with your tires. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, tires with tread designed to increase traction on wet or snowy roads will be better suited to handle winter weather conditions, while those with standard tread will call for additional caution in these situations.

You will also need to check the inflation pressure on your tires, as lower temperatures cause pressure to drop. Lowering the pressure on tires does not improve traction and actually makes the tires more vulnerable to damage, the RMA advised. Additionally, the organization cautioned four-wheel-drive capability may make some drivers feel more confident, but it does not prevent skidding.

"Check the inflation on your tires, as lower temperatures cause pressure to drop.”

As AAA advised, with winter driving its important to take your time. Hard braking and fast accelerating reduce your traction, which can cause you to slide or lose control of the vehicle. Instead, AAA recommended accelerating, decelerating, turning and maneuvering slowly.

Additionally, be sure to keep some extra space between you and the vehicle you're following. According to AAA, drivers are advised to maintain a following distance of three to four seconds on dry pavement, but when pavement is slippery that distance should be increased to eight to 10 seconds.

Before the next blast of winter weather arrives, consider following National Safety Council recommendations and taking your car to the mechanic for a winter checkup. The NSC advised having your mechanic look over your car's ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses, fan belts, spark plugs, battery, distributor, tires, antifreeze level and emissions filters.

The NSC advised drivers create a winter emergency kit to keep in their cars that includes spare tires, shovels, kitty litter or sand for traction, tow and tire chains, flashlights, first aid kits, batteries, blankets and nonperishable snacks.