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Buffalo and Beyond: Safe Driving Strategies for Whiteout Conditions

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Just yesterday, Buffalo witnessed a 75-vehicle pile-up on Interstate 90 due to whiteout conditions. The event occurred on the stretch between the Depew and Pembroke exits; both lanes of the interstate were temporarily shut down while trapped motorists were rescued from vehicles. One fatality occurred, while 11 other people were injured and transported to nearby hospitals.

This sobering story provides a timely opportunity to revisit winter driving safety tips. While we’ve already waxed eloquent about the woes of winter driving and how to trek through cold weather conditions more safely, here are some strategies to help protect you in whiteout conditions.


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Keep windows clear

During treacherous winter conditions, your car’s defrost mode is your best friend. It’s also wise to check that your recirculate setting is turned off (because if it’s turned on, this will only make your windshield fog up more quickly).

Maximize your visibility

Turn on your headlights onto the brightest setting. If you have fog lights, use them. This will help other driver’s to more easily spot your vehicle on the road.

Reduce distractions

Turn down the radio. Avoid snacking or drinking coffee. Ask fellow passengers riding with you to be as quiet as possible and keep conversations to a minimum. You get the idea… Basically do whatever you can to boost your concentration on the road, so you can be as safe as possible while navigating through the obscured road conditions.

Scan right

Keep the edge of the road in sight, both to help you stay within the lane lines as well as keep you from hitting passengers or vehicles on the side of the road.

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Slow down and be patient

It might go without saying, but a whiteout is not the time to make it to your destination as nimbly as possible. One of your best defenses in blizzard conditions is to drive as slowly as you can to maintain maximum visibility.

Keep a safe distance

Similar to driving through other winter weather conditions, a whiteout calls for extra vigilance in keeping a safe distance from the cars around you. Make sure to keep an eye on the vehicle in back, as well as the front, so you know exactly where your vehicle is in relation to others on the road.

Take a break

Whether you’re near an exit, or close to a wide shoulder in the road where you can safely pull over, don’t hesitate to pull over and wait out the conditions if you’re struggling with visibility and/or traction due to the blinding snow and wind.

If you do have to pull over

Turn the hazard lights on and stay in your vehicle, if you get stranded or have to pause on the side of the road for a while. Make sure to crack open a window and run the engine occasionally, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia.

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News Sources: New York Daily NewsAccuWeather, Autofile.ca