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Winter Driving

Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Each winter, especially in our snowy climate, driving accidents become a common cause of emergency department visits. Vehicle operators, passengers, and pedestrians are all at heightened risk in adverse weather, when snowy or icy road conditions exist. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in the United States, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for people age 1‒54. Crashes happen year-round from factors such as excessive speed, distractions, impairment, and failure to wear seat belts. Add snow and ice, plus dark and unfamiliar roads to the equation, and the risk becomes much higher. Without proper winter tires with substantial tread or too much trust in the technology featured in most modern cars, drivers often fail to recognize that vehicle control is substantially affected by winter conditions.

It’s good to take a vigilant approach every time you get behind the wheel this winter. Also, understand that just because you are taking all of the necessary precautions, doesn’t mean your fellow roadsters are. 

The CDC offers the following safety tips for all drivers:

  • Do not drive when you are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, and do not allow your family members or friends to drive while impaired. Impairment by any type of legal or illicit drug—not just alcohol—can increase crash risk. If you drink alcohol and/or use drugs, designate a sober driver, call a taxi, or use a ride share service to protect yourself and others on the road.
  • Avoid distractions while driving, such as using your cell phone to text, email, or access social media. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for at least five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Safe driving requires your full attention.
  • Check the weather conditions before you head out on the road. Make sure to drive at a speed that is safe for road and weather conditions. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recommends to decrease your speed 5 to 10 mph on wet roads, reduce speed by half the speed limit on packed snow, and if you encounter or suspect ice—slow to a crawl.

While Tahoe roads will often be hazardous with snow and ice this winter, motor vehicle deaths and injuries can be prevented. Make safety a priority when you decide to travel in adverse conditions. Always buckle up, drive at safe speeds, and never drive impaired to help everyone stay safe on the road during the winter season.

Dr. Kim Evans is a board-certified surgeon and the Trauma Program Director at Barton Health. Barton’s Level III Trauma Center provides medical services for trauma care and the immediate availability of emergency medicine physicians, surgeons, nurses, lab and x-ray technicians, and life support equipment 24-hours a day. Learn more at BartonHealth.org.