After making it through a sweltering summer it’s easy to forget that Texas winter weather can bring sleet, freezing rain, and sometimes even snow. That rarely happens more than once or twice a year making Texans inexperienced, and even unfamiliar, with driving under those weather conditions. So our wreckers and operators are often called for vehicles off the road or after an accident. Here are some tips for dealing with snow and ice.
What to Look Out For
Freezing weather conditions can create ice hazards that are hard to see until you’re right on top of them. Or can’t see them at all in the case of “black ice.” What’s more, by radiating heat to the night sky roads can freeze even though the air is above 32 degrees. So here are a few things to be alert for in bad weather.
- Areas that have been shaded or exposed to air underneath ice-up first. So be extra cautions when approaching ramps, bridges and overpasses.
- Sleet and freezing rain can turn road conditions from safe to extremely dangerous in a matter of minutes.
- Wind gusts can sometimes “grab the wheel” from you.
Winter Weather Driving
For central and northern Texas the hazardous winter weather season is November thorough February. With snow and ice rare, there’s no snowplows and pretty much nobody has chains. So it’s up to you and your skills to keep everyone safe. If at all possible, stay off the roads during (and right after) winter storms and cold snaps, especially after dark. If you really need to go out, here’s a few important winter driving tips.
- Slow down! Limited visibility in fog, rain, falling or blowing snow, and even a chance of ice call for extra caution. Leave early, and know your route.
- On snow or ice keep at least 3 times the normal following distance.
- Use the brakes gently to slow down, pump them to stop more quickly. Don’t jerk the steering wheel or attempt sudden turns.
- If you start to slide, do not slam on the brakes. Regain traction by easing off on the gas (or brakes) and steer in same direction as the slide. Straighten your path only after you’ve regained control.
- Keep at least a half-tank of gas. Not only does that allow for slower going and closed filling stations, it helps keep the line from freezing at really cold temperatures.
- Don’t be too determined. An overnight hotel stay far less expensive than major accident!
Holiday Driving Tips
When it comes to travel this holiday season, patience and planning are the keys.
- Winterize your car yourself, or better still before a trip take it to a mechanic for vehicle maintenance and a thorough inspection.
- Keep a winter emergency supply kit in your car — tools for quick fixes, getting help, and staying warm along with some food and water.
- Having a designated driver is all the more critical with a combination of holiday festivities and bad weather conditions.
- Don’t let holiday stress make you a more aggressive driver. Stay rested and alert; you’re likely to need your defensive driving skills.
- Stay up to date on weather reports before starting out, especially regarding winter storm watches. Don’t forget that weather can be very different in different parts of Texas, let alone when traveling to other states.
You can find recent info on highway conditions at www.txdot.gov and www.