The Dangers of Winter Driving in Missouri

As winter approaches and temperatures drop, Missouri drivers must prepare for the rigors of winter driving. Operating a motor vehicle in snowy and icy conditions is dangerous, and driving without the proper preparations increases the risk of an auto accident. Read on to learn the best ways to prepare yourself and your car for winter driving and be as safe and responsible as possible.

How to Prepare for Winter Driving

Driving safely in winter starts by adequately preparing yourself and your vehicle before the snowy weather arrives.

Vehicle Preparations

The first step in getting prepared for winter weather is preparing your vehicle. Improperly maintained vehicles increase the risk of accidents. Follow this checklist to ensure your vehicle is winter ready.

  • Check your car battery before and after long trips. Low temperatures cause battery power to drain more quickly. You risk being stuck in freezing weather if your battery dies.
  • Ensure windshield wipers are working correctly without leaving any streaks and that your vehicle has enough freeze-resistant wiper fluid to maintain complete visibility.
  • Check your engine’s coolant system and top off the coolant. Ensure you use the specific coolant mixture ratio for Missouri winters, as recommended in your owner’s manual.
  • Inspect your tires to ensure the tire pressure is optimal and the tire tread wear isn’t uneven or excessive. If you have access to snow or winter tires, have them installed now.
  • Ensure your gas tank is at least half-full before driving. If you become stranded, keeping the engine running will help you stay warm while you wait for help.

Driver Preparations

To help stay safe in the winter, always check road conditions before leaving, regardless of the trip’s length. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) maintains a comprehensive traffic information map to help you plan your trip accordingly.

Stash an emergency bag inside the vehicle and ensure it contains tools and supplies to help you withstand winter conditions. The kit should include:

  • Tools to help out a car stuck in the snow: Snow shovel, ice scraper, a bag of sand or kitty litter
  • Survival supplies: First-aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, bottled water, non-perishable food, extra warm gloves, blankets, sleeping bags
  • Additional tools: Pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, booster cables

Practice driving your vehicle under snowy conditions on a private road or a safe, empty area. Drive slowly and learn how your car handles while driving over snow or ice, especially if your vehicle is rear-wheel drive (RWD).

Before you head out, notify friends, family, or other people of your trip, especially if you’re planning to drive through areas with poor or no cell phone coverage. The information can help first responders find you if you are in an accident, slide off the road, or become stuck in deep snow.

How to Drive Safely in Winter Conditions

During your trip, always ensure you adapt your vehicle’s speed to the current road conditions. The FMCSA recommends reducing your speed by ⅓ if the roads are wet and by ½ if covered in snow.

Ice commonly forms on bridges and overpasses, so ensure you slow down before crossing. If roads are icy, drive as slowly and cautiously as possible. Avoid sudden acceleration or braking as your vehicle risks sliding.

Don’t drive while tired and eliminate sources of distractions like radios and phones to remain focused on the road and your vehicle’s behavior. Avoid using convenience features such as cruise control or self-driving modes. These features are not intended for use on snowy or icy roads and do not replace an attentive driver.

Never pass an operating snowplow or sand truck. These vehicles have large blind spots, making it difficult for their drivers to see you. Attempting to pass them increases the risk of causing an accident, endangering yourself, the plow operator, and other vehicles and passersby.

What to do in Case of an Accident

If you are in an accident or your vehicle gets stuck in the snow, don’t panic. Follow these steps to ensure your safety.

  • Do not leave your vehicle if you are not in immediate danger or if it isn’t disrupting traffic, especially if the outside temperature is below freezing.
  • Call a towing service and remain inside the vehicle while waiting for assistance to keep yourself warm. If you or anyone else is injured, call 911.
  • Minimize your vehicle’s fuel consumption by leaving the engine idling for 10 minutes, once per hour.
  • While waiting for assistance, periodically verify that snow or ice is not obstructing your exhaust to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide entering your vehicle cabin.
  • If another party is at fault, call a qualified team of St. Louis car accident attorneys after getting yourself to safety.

Injured in an Accident on Missouri Roads? Contact Cofman Townsley

Cofman Townsley’s team of attorneys has helped auto accident victims recover damages since 1973. If you or a loved one was involved in an accident in Missouri and another driver is at fault, we can help. Our team has the resources to investigate the accident and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today for a free case review, and let us put our more than four decades of experience to work for you.