Back to Winter Safety Articles
The weather has a habit of changing pretty quickly, especially during the winter season. Powerful winter storms driven by jet streams that often exceed 200 mph can bring copious amounts of snow and ice, along with blowing snow and whiteout conditions. In some cases the temperature can drop over 50 degrees in a matter of hours. If travelers don't check the weather forecast and plan accordingly, these fast-changing conditions can be a matter of life or death when we are on the road.
Being aware of the weather conditions when traveling is crucial to ensuring a safe journey. According to the Department of Transportation, each year 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet. Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement annually.
What’s more, fast-changing weather conditions can be particularly dangerous. Just last year alone, white out conditions created by quickly developing snow squalls caused over 140 accidents and 3 fatalities in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
Of course, there are several steps you can take to avoid being caught unaware on the road in a hazardous winter event.
- Utilize your local National Weather Service office: Fast-changing weather conditions happen just as described – fast! Just because it’s sunny and clear when you depart doesn’t mean it will stay that way for the duration of your trip. Make sure to check the hourly conditions at your local NWS office.
- Check the road conditions along your route: Weather conditions often change quickly when you travel through locations with varying landscapes. Be sure to check the current road conditions and updated alerts or advisories for the roads and highways you will be traveling on. This site contains a comprehensive list of current road conditions listed by state.
- Stay mobile in your mobile: Having access to the most up-to-date weather warnings and advisory information is now easier than ever. Wherever you are, you can get the local weather forecast from the National Weather Service with one click on your home screen by visiting mobile.weather.gov and bookmark it to your phone. Make sure that you have the latest weather news and information on the go so you can stay on top of fast-changing winter weather conditions.
- Winterize your vehicle: No one likes encountering car problems at any point during the year. But fast-changing and harsh winter conditions can be particularly brutal on your vehicle. Take a look at this checklist provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for some tips on preparing your car for the winter.
- Have a winter weather emergency kit: Like your mother always said, “It’s better to be safe than sorry”. Even with full preparation, surprises are bound to happen with weather conditions. Make sure Mother Nature doesn’t catch you off guard by having some basic winter weather tools packed in your car at all times. Check out some of the items you should consider bringing along with this list provided by ready.gov.