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Safe Driving Tips: Winter Driving in Texas

From prairie country in the panhandle through dry, arid desert, down to the semi tropical climate on the Gulf Coast, few states have a more varied climate than Texas. With basically nothing more than a barbed wire fence to separate them from winter storms rushing down the eastern slope of the Rockies, the residents of the Panhandle area are somewhat accustomed to blizzards. The residents of the Gulf Coast rarely see snow but this December saw the earliest recorded snowfall in the Houston area and the second year in a row in which snow fell on the Gulf Coast. As its name suggests, the Hill Country can be especially difficult to drive in during a snow or ice storm and the western desert is not a place where a driver would want to be stranded in the snow.

The early snow storm in Houston led to the death of one motorist and serious injuries to a police officer investigating a traffic crash when another driver, attempting to slow down, lost control and crashed into the patrol car pinning the officer between his car and the guard rail. For drivers unused to driving in the snow, these weather extremes can be extremely dangerous. Drivers traveling across Texas in the winter should prepare for the worse.

If you live in an area that rarely sees snow, remember the following safety tips for driving in snow:

  • It is important to remember that even a small amount of snow can make the roads very slippery and treacherous. The problem becomes worse when the snow on the road, reduced to slush by passing cars, freezes overnight and turns into a sheet of ice.

  • Remember that bridges and overpasses will freeze first.

  • Stay home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to go out.

  • If you must go out, drive slowly.

  • When slowing, don't hit the brakes too hard or fast; it can cause you to spin out and lose control of your car.

  • Anticipate areas where there may be pedestrians and drive slowly.

  • If your car begins to skid, turn your wheel in the direction of the skid. If the rear of your car starts to skid to the left, turn your wheel to the left. Take your foot off the gas and don't apply the brakes until your car has slowed and you have regained control. Look where you want your car to go and steer gently back and forth until your car is centered in the lane.

If you live in those areas of Texas where blizzards are common, remember the following tips:

  • Blowing and drifting snow can obscure the edges of the roadway. Look for snow markers on the edge of the road.

  • Whiteout conditions can exist, obscuring all road details and traffic ahead.

  • If whiteout conditions exist, treat it like fog. Don't use your high beams; high beams will reflect off the snow making it more difficult to see ahead.

  • In whiteout conditions, turn off your radio and listen for the sounds of traffic ahead.

If you are traveling across Texas on the interstates:

  • In the desert, there are areas of where freeway exits are more than 100 miles apart.

  • Make sure your gas tank is full. Keep it topped off before traveling on those long empty stretches between exits.

  • Take extra blankets, power bars, and water in case you are stranded on the interstate between exits.

  • If you are stranded, conserve gas. Run your car's engine just long enough to heat up the car and then shut it off.

  • While running your engine, be aware of the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your tail pipe isn't covered by snow and crack a window slightly while running the engine.

  • Do not leave your car and attempt to walk. You are safer in your car until rescue personnel arrive.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. Driving in the snow is one of the most dangerous thing I had ever done. I really can't find the right way to drive on it even with my chains on it.
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December 18, 2009 at 6:50 PM  

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