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How to Drive in the Snow

The winter months often signal the arrival of two things: holiday travel and snowy roads. Regardless of where you live, you may find yourself navigating winter weather and icy conditions as you visit family and friends during the season.

For some, winter driving feels stressful or even frightening. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by following these tips on how to drive in the snow.

Clear Snow and Ice Off Your Vehicle

If your car is parked outside overnight, ice and snow will likely build up on your hood, windshield, rear window, and the top of your car. It’s critical that you clear this buildup off before beginning to drive, for the safety of everyone in your car as well as everyone else on the road.

To clear your windshield and other windows, turn on your defroster and let it melt the ice a bit. It can take a long time for your defroster to remove all the snow and ice completely, so it’s a good idea to have an ice scraper handy to speed the process along.

Additionally, you should brush all the snow off the hood and roof of your car. This may not seem very important, since this snow generally doesn’t impact your visibility. However, as you drive, the wind may blow the snow up onto your windshield, or onto the windshields of cars behind you. Many ice scrapers have a brush on the other end that you can use to clear loose snow off of your car.

Finally, check your headlights and taillights and make sure they are not covered in snow or ice. When visibility is low, it’s crucial that other drivers can see your lights.

Check Your Wipers and Washer Fluid

If you find yourself driving in a snowstorm, it’s important to have working windshield wipers that completely wipe away snow and water. If your wipers are old or have been used a lot, their blades can wear down and stop working as well as they should.

Before winter starts, it’s a good idea to check your wipers and consider replacing them. You will be able to tell they need replacing if the rubber is cracked or 

damaged, or if they leave streaks on your windshield when you use them. If you have a wiper on your back window, check it as well.

Another key feature for safe winter driving is a full supply of washer fluid. Slushy road conditions often leave a layer of dirt and salt on your car, including on your windshield. If you run out of wiper fluid (or if it freezes), you’ll have a much harder time cleaning it off and your ability to see may be impacted.

Check your wiper fluid to make sure it is made for the weather you’ll be traveling in. The bottle will typically indicate the lowest temperature the fluid is made for.

Check Your Tire Pressure and Tread

You should be checking your tires all year long and ensuring they are maintained and rotated as needed. This is especially important before you drive on icy roads. Tires with worn down tread are more likely to skid on ice or snow. Tires that are low on air can also lose traction more easily than properly inflated tires.

As temperatures get lower, your tire pressure may also decrease. Typically, you can find the ideal tire pressure for your tires on the sticker inside your driver side door. If the information isn’t there, check your owner’s manual.

Invest in Snow Tires

If your area regularly receives snow in the winter time, or you often find yourself driving on snowy roads in the winter, you should consider purchasing snow tires or winter tires. Some states even have traction laws requiring certain types of vehicles to have snow chains or snow tires for a few months out of the year.

Winter tires are made for driving in cold weather and light snow. They have a deeper tread than all season tires, allowing them to grip the road more effectively.

Snow tires are designed for driving in heavy snow. They have an even deeper tread than winter tires, and some have metal studs for additional traction.

Use Four-Wheel Drive

If your car is equipped with four-wheel drive, make sure it is engaged when driving in snowy conditions. All-wheel drive also works well on snowy and icy roads.

If your car is front-wheel drive only, you may still be able to drive in the snow, depending on the state of your tires and the road conditions. You will likely want good snow tires, and avoid attempting to drive in very deep snow.

Rear-wheel drive does not perform well in the snow. If you only have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, consider staying home or using a different car when roads are very snowy.

Keep in mind that having four-wheel drive does not absolve you of driving safely in winter weather. Four-wheel drive does not improve the function of your tires or brakes, which means it is still perfectly possible to lose control of your vehicle when turning or stopping on snow-covered roads.

Use Your Headlights

When snow or sleet is falling, it can decrease visibility, making it harder for other drivers to see you. Use your headlights in a winter storm, even during the day. Resist the urge to turn on your high beams, however. They will reflect off of the falling snow and make it harder for you to see.

Slow Down

One of the most important ways to drive safely in the snow is to slow down. This is for several reasons.

When roads are slick, your required stopping distance will be greater than usual. In fact, it can take up to 10 times longer to stop snow-covered roads than on dry roads. By driving slowly, you both decrease your stopping distance and give yourself more time to react to unexpected hazards.

Turning can also be tricky in the snow. If you slow down, you lessen the chances that you will lose control during a turn. If you do start to slide, your slower speed will give you more time to regain control before hitting something.

Avoid cruise control in winter weather conditions. You should be constantly assessing and adjusting your speed for the conditions. If you begin to skid while using cruise control, your car may accelerate to try and achieve the target speed, possibly causing you to lose control.

Stay Alert

Winter driving conditions create a number of hazards that you need to be aware of as you drive. Other drivers may lose control of their vehicles and enter your lane. Black ice may be present on the roadway. Wildlife, such as deer and elk, are especially common in rural areas.

It is always critical to avoid becoming distracted while driving, but especially so in the winter. Because it will take you longer to stop when a hazard appears on the road, you need as much time as possible to decelerate. If you are distracted by passengers, scenery, or a cell phone, you may not see the hazard until it is too late.

Give a Safe Following Distance

Do not tailgate other cars in winter weather conditions. Snowy roads make an already dangerous practice even more risky. On dry roads, you should generally allow three seconds of following distance. On wet or snowy roads, increase the distance to 6-8 seconds. This means that after the car in front of you passes a landmark, it should take at least 6 seconds before you pass the same landmark.

Don’t Panic

If you feel your car start to slide, the most important thing you can do is remain calm. If you panic, you may forget what to do and act on instinct.

If you skid, take your foot off the gas pedal, but do not slam on the brakes. Gently turn your steering wheel in the same direction that the rear of your car is sliding. If you feel your rear tires slide to the left, turn your steering wheel to the left. Do not make any quick maneuvers– jerking the steering wheel or slamming down on the brake pedal can cause you to lose control even further.

Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car

If you do happen to crash into a snowdrift or break down on a highway, it may take some time for tow services, like AAA, to reach you. You can take steps to get your car unstuck by having the right tools in your car.

Snow Shovel

If you have room, a small snow shovel will allow you to dig out the snow around your tires. Even if you’re calling a tow truck, they’ll have an easier time getting you out if the path is clear.

Cat Litter or Sand

Sandbox sand and kitty litter can help provide traction to your tires when you’re stuck in the snow. Sprinkle the sand or cat litter around your tires and you may find yourself able to drive out of your sticky situation.

Heavy Coat, Gloves, and a Blanket

Whether you try to get your car out yourself or decide to wait for help, it won’t be much fun if you’re freezing. Some heating systems don’t work as well when the car is not in motion, so you may find the inside of your car getting chilly even with the heat on. Always have warm clothes and a blanket handy in case of emergency.

What is Rubbernecking?

Woman rubbernecking while operating a motor vehicle

When coming upon something interesting on the side of the road while driving, it may feel natural to want to slow down and crane your neck to see what’s going on. However, this action, known as “rubbernecking,” can actually create more issues for everyone. Rubbernecking, while a seemingly innocuous act, can lead to traffic jams and car accidents.

What Are Examples of Rubbernecking?

The term rubbernecking refers to drivers taking their eyes off the road ahead to look at something else, usually off to the side. There are a variety of reasons a curious person might slow down for a better view of something off the shoulder of the highway. Rubbernecking is often used to refer to drivers slowing down to look at vehicle accident sites, but motorists may also find themselves distracted by:

  • Flashing lights on police cars, tow trucks, or first responder vehicles
  • People standing or walking on the side of the road
  • Landscapes
  • Wildlife

It is natural for humans to be interested in accidents or other tragic events in the lives of other people. Often referred to as “morbid curiosity,” many people experience horror or sadness when viewing an accident scene, but find themselves unable to look away.

Why Is Rubbernecking Dangerous?

Rubbernecking is a form of distracted driving, and can create a serious hazard on the road. A rubbernecking driver may slow down as they gawk at the distraction, becoming an obstacle to those around them still traveling at normal speeds. They may also cause rear-end collisions, as they may fail to see traffic slowing down in front of them while they look at the crash site.

Rubbernecking is such a widespread problem that it is the leading cause of traffic jams. When one car crash occurs, traffic often piles up as drivers all slow down as they pass the scene.

How to Avoid Rubbernecking

Even if those around you are slowing down to gape at a crash site, you can avoid becoming part of the problem by refusing to rubberneck.

Keep your eyes on the road

Do not let anything, inside or outside the car, distract you from the task at hand. When you are behind the wheel, your only job is to get yourself and your passengers to your destination safely.

Refrain from using cell phones, fiddling with the radio, or becoming preoccupied with happenings on the side of the road, no matter how tempting it may be to sneak a peek.

Practice safe driving when passing an accident

Anticipate that cars around you may be slowing down as you pass an accident scene. Watch closely for brake lights and for drivers who appear to be distracted. If you must slow down quickly, use your hazard lights to communicate that to other motorists.

Incident screens

In order to stop rubbernecking, some accident responders have begun using incident screens. These large screens can surround the site of the crash, giving passing motorists nothing to look at as they drive by. This helps prevent traffic from slowing around the area.

What to Do if You Are Involved in a Rubbernecking Accident

Anytime you are involved in a car accident, be sure to take the following actions to protect yourself and your right to an insurance claim.

Check for injuries

Immediately after a crash, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If anyone is seriously injured, call 911.

Call the police

Even if no one in your car requires immediate medical attention, you should call the local non-emergency line and ask that a police officer be dispatched to the scene. Many insurance companies require you to file a police report before they will approve any claims.

The police officer will take statements from you and the other driver and make notes about the scene. This report may be useful to you if you choose to file a claim later.

Take note of the accident scene

While you wait for the police to arrive, document the scene of the accident as thoroughly as possible. Take pictures and/or videos of both cars, your injuries, marks on the pavement, weather and traffic conditions, and the scene as a whole. Even things that may not seem important at the time may be helpful later on.

Exchange information with the other driver

When speaking with the other driver, remain as calm and professional as possible. Do not admit fault or apologize for the accident. Simply collect the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Insurance information
  • License plate number

Do not speculate about what caused the accident. This could be used against you later.

Seek medical attention

If you were not checked by a medical professional at the scene of the accident, see your physician right away. Let them know you were involved in a car accident, so they know what to look for. You may have hidden injuries that you are unaware of.

Notify your insurance company

Call your auto insurance provider and inform them that you were involved in an accident. Depending on your policy, some vehicle repairs and medical treatment may be covered.

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

If you were involved in an accident with a rubbernecking driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your damages. An attorney with The Advocates can offer you a free consultation to determine whether you have a case.

If you choose to file a claim, doing it on your own will likely not be easy. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will make it difficult for you to obtain the settlement you deserve.

The Advocates have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies and helping accident victims get fair compensation for their injuries, and we are ready to help you too. You deserve an attorney who will fight for your best interests. You deserve an Advocate.

Tips For Driving Safely on Rural Roads

More than half of all accidents occur on rural roads while only 13 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas. Here are some tips to avoid accidents on these potentially dangerous roads.

1. Slow Down

Snowy road in the Montana Rockies

While rural roads may give you the impression that you are all alone on the open road, you must be watchful for other drivers. Follow the speed limit. If you do not see any signs go a reasonable speed – slower than freeway speed.

2. Watch for Blind Curves

Rural roads can be difficult to navigate because they are not as well kept as urban roads. They may not be graded like urban roads, and the visibility may be limited. If you are driving around a curve where you may not be able to see other drivers. Stay as far right as you can without sliding off the road. Go slow enough that you have time to react and respond to anything that crosses your path.

3. Pass carefully

Some rural two-lane roads allow for passing on the left. Always approach these areas carefully. As you pass you will be moving into the path of oncoming traffic. Always check to make sure your path to pass is clear.

4. Watch for slow-moving vehicles.

Rural roads can be home to certain slow moving vehicles like tractors and farm trucks. Tractors move slowly and may be wider than other vehicles, but it is legal for them to be on the road. Treat them like you would any other vehicle. Give them space to travel, and do not follow too closely.

The Most Dangerous Roads in Nebraska

When thinking of Nebraska, do lighthouses and rainforests first come to mind? Think again! Nebraska is home to the biggest indoor rainforest in the United States and a 75-year-old lighthouse standing thousands of miles away from the nearest ocean.

While the Cornhusker State brings pure country bliss and unusual tourist destinations, there a few roadways you should avoid or at least be weary of. In fact, some of the following most dangerous roads in Nebraska have given birth to this local saying, “The speed limit is 75 but you can drive 90!” Though not encouraged, speeding is the number one cause of accidents in the state.

If you need legal advice about a crash, you can call The Advocates 24 hours a day! Our car accident lawyers are available to answer any questions you may have.

Top 4 Most Dangerous Roads in Nebraska

1. Interstate 80: A Statewide Highway of Terrordangerous nebraska roads

Ranked at the top of our list of most dangerous roads in Nebraska, Interstate 80 is a well-traversed highway that crosses through the many rolling plains of the Midwest. Having seen over 180 traffic deaths in Nebraska in the last ten years, this roadway should be driven with the utmost care.

Risk Factors:

  • High risk of speeding
  • Distracted driving plays huge factor
  • Improper lane changing and merging
  • Frequently used truck route

In 2018, Nebraska lawmakers had intentions to increase the speed limit on several highways throughout the state. However, they excluded I-80 to avoid the possibility of inviting more danger to the roadway. If you’re traveling on I-80, stay alert, slow down and avoid texting or drinking while driving at all costs.

2. Omaha’s Dangerous 72nd and Dodge Street Intersection

While it isn’t the busiest intersection in the city, more accidents have occurred at 72nd and Dodge Street than any other intersection in Omaha. Reports say the biggest reason for this is not only due to distracted driving and heavy traffic flow but to large chunks of roadway missing on the streets.

Potholes and worn asphalt pose a serious safety risk for vehicles passing through this intersection. With more than 50 crashes in 2018, be mindful of your surroundings and follow at a safe distance. Driving too closely can leave you and others left injured from an accident.

3. Highway 81 & 91: Stop Before You Merge

Merging onto any highway can be risky for all parties involved, especially when drivers are required to come to a complete stop before entering the roadway. Unfortunately, not everyone follows these rules. The intersection between Highway 81 and Highway 91 is on our list of most dangerous roads in Nebraska for that very reason. Drivers must come to a full stop on Highway 91 in order to cross or merge onto 81, but they don’t.

With traffic traveling through this area at 70 mph, consider this intersection a magnet for rear-end accidents and T-bone’s. According to a woman who works in the Humphrey area, the high number of speeding traffic has led to many accidents at this intersection.

4. The Perilous 27th and Cornhusker

Named the most dangerous intersection in Lincoln in 2017, 27th Street and Cornhusker is a cross section every driver should be cautious of. Whether you’re a resident or just passing through the capital, there are plenty of exotic gardens to explore as well as visit the city’s notorious state capitol tower.

Due to the heavy flow of traffic and complex turn lanes, some drivers who are not used to this intersection might find themselves in a perilous situation. Proceed through 27th and Cornhusker with a little extra care.

Now that we’ve covered some of the most dangerous roads in Nebraska, it’s important to plan your next trip on these roadways with extra caution. Even the most seemingly harmless roads and intersections can be more dangerous than you think. When you’re traveling on a highway that’s had its fair share of collisions, you should always check your speed and keep an eye on the vehicles around you.

When to Call The Advocates

If you or a loved one were recently injured by another driver, it’s important that you speak with a car accident attorney right away. Being involved in an accident can be a difficult time for anyone involved.

Here at The Advocates, our car accident attorneys will guide you through each step of filing a legal claim. We will make sure you are fully compensated for your pain and suffering from your accident. Call The Advocates today at 406-534-7179 or speak to an attorney on our Live Chat. You deserve an Advocate!