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Winter is coming to Pennsylvania: are you ready to drive safely?

The temps are cooling all along the East Coast and throughout Pennsylvania. We are well and truly in the grips of fall now, and winter will be here before we know it. Before the snow flies is the best time to review the hazards of cold-weather driving, particularly the risks often associated with car accidents.

Snow is, of course, a key winter-weather crash risk. Falling snow – especially when combined with high winds – shortens visibility and increases the chances of an accident. Any time visibility suffers, drivers must adjust their speed and drive more defensively to avoid crashes. Sadly, many of them don’t do that. Snow also gets compacted onto road surfaces, creating a slick and bumpy roadway on which traction is poor.

Ice is another factor in many winter car accidents. Ice, in particular black ice, is virtually impossible to see on the road surface. If you hit a patch of ice while traveling at highway speeds, your vehicle is going to skid and possibly spin out of control. This can easily result in an accident if you strike another vehicle or a stationary object (like a tree, bridge abutment, utility pole, etc.). It’s important to note that ice can form on road surfaces whenever the temperature gets below freezing and there is moisture present. There doesn’t need to be a massive snow storm or even actively falling precipitation.

Poor vehicle maintenance is another key risk factor for cold-weather car crashes. Tires need adequate tread and must be properly inflated (or swapped out for winter tires). Brakes must be fully functional if they are to adequately stop your vehicle. Traction control systems need to be checked, as do defrost and heating systems to keep your windows clear.