How to Stay Safe During Rush Hour in the Winter

Columbus Chamber
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Member Insights by The Donahey Law Firm

Without a doubt, traffic is the most annoying part of anyone’s daily commute. Whether the cause of your delay is typical rush hour jams or slow-driving rubberneckers after an accident, traffic is not only irritating but potentially dangerous.

Even though traffic is never in season, winter comes with its unique rush hour ramifications that can increase your risk of getting into an accident or reduce your safety. Research shows that 1,300 Americans are killed every winter on snowy pavement and that 22% of all accidents are weather-related, which means that the danger is very real for anyone on the road.

There isn’t a foolproof way of staying entirely safe from other drivers during winter rush hour, but these tips might just help you avoid some unnecessary harm:

Allow extended space and slow down.

If you’re caught in rush hour traffic, chances are you’re itching to get home. Even though it might be the last thing you want to do, it is essential to slow down, especially if there’s ice or snow on the road. Lower your speed, use your gas pedal, and brake slowly to prevent your vehicle from slipping or sliding on the freeway.

Another tip to keep in mind is to increase your typical braking distance. While you might be used to starting to slow down at one distance, slippery ice and snow can make it more difficult to do so. Keep yourself and other drivers safe and begin to slow down a few feet earlier in the winter.

Keep your tank half-full

Imagine being stuck in traffic and having your gas light turn on. Terrifying. Ensure that you’re never caught with too little gas in your tank and try to fill up more regularly in the winter. Having low levels of gas in your tank means that you’re at an increased risk for having your tank freeze. Always having at least half a tank of gas will provide you with peace of mind during delays.

Get your brakes and tires checked before winter.

Bad brakes and terrible tires are an easy way to increase the likelihood that you’ll get into an accident. An easy way to avoid this is to simply get your brakes and tires inspected before winter comes. An auto repair technician will be able to detect potential problems and fix small discrepancies before they become a major problem.

Keep an emergency kit handy

Most of the time, this won’t be necessary for even the most tedious of traffic jams, but it’s vital to have some essentials with you just in case. At a minimum, keeping food (think: individually packaged snacks that won’t expire for a while) and water in your trunk is a great idea for times when you’re stranded on the highway for longer than expected.

Band-Aids, a flashlight, extra gas, and blankets are also essentials for your winter rush hour emergency kit. You never know what might happen, so keeping these items in your trunk will ease your tension when you are at a standstill for longer than expected.

Have a portable charger or USB cord

In this day and age, being stuck without your cell phone is enough to cause panic. The last thing you would want while you’re stuck in rush hour traffic is a low battery, or even worse, a dead battery. Whether you’re using your cell phone for entertainment, getting in contact with loved ones, or for directions, you’ll want to have enough of a charge on it to last.

Most cars have a USB port or place to insert a car charger, but some makes and models are exceptions. If yours doesn’t have a built-in spot, it might be good to invest in a small, portable charger to always keep in your car.

Traffic jams are undoubtedly a nuisance any time of the year, but even more so in the winter. It’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you when you’re unprepared for a stressful situation, so be sure to prepare yourself for potential dangers. Hopefully, these tips will help you stay safer during winter rush hour this year!