I made a number of observations recently as I drove to work following one of our small winter storms. There are a number of drivers who do not drive defensively, which is especially important in bad weather. For those of us who are older drivers, this is extremely important because our reaction time to respond to problems on the road decreases as we age. As a reminder let’s review three basic defensive driving tips for driving in inclement weather.
1. Adjust your speed to road conditions. Speed limits are set for clear, dry road conditions. It takes longer to stop on wet, leaf covered, snowy, or icy roads. Every time there is bad weather we read of accidents caused by people traveling too fast for the condition of the roads. You do not need to be one of them.
2. Make sure you can be seen. While the state requires headlights at night and when you are using your windshield wipers, it is a good idea to use your headlights on dismal, cloudy, and foggy days. Many cars have daytime running lights, but most of these do not turn on your taillights, so using your headlights makes sure both headlight and taillights are on. If your car does not have a system to warn you to turn the headlights off when you exit your car, try putting a clothespin on your door handle as a reminder when you use your headlights during daytime hours.
3. Make sure you can see. In wintertime it is common for vehicles to be covered by frost or snow. Take the time to clean off all your windows. Cleaning off just a small area of your windshield, or even the entire windshield alone is like driving with “blinders” on. If there is snow on you vehicle, be sure to clean the snow off your vehicle’s roof. As you drive and your car warms up, the snow on your roof can come loose. If you stop or slow-down quickly, the snow may slide down over your windshield, cutting off your view of where you are going. If the loosened snow blows off the top of your vehicle it can hit the windshields of cars behind you, blinding the driver and causing that driver to have an accident. Some people say they cannot reach the tops of their vehicles. At one time this may have been true, but now there are many vehicle snow aids that can help drivers remove snow from vans, SUVs, and pick-up trucks. As you clean your windows and the top of your vehicle it is good to make sure your headlights and taillights are clear, as well.
If you type in “defensive driving” on an internet search engine you will find many sites which give defensive driving tips that are useful all-year long. While many of the ideas may seem like common sense, it is always a good idea to periodically review these tips to keep them fresh in our minds.
John W. Reese, M.S., CDP
Elder Care Coordinator