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Summary
  • Ice and snow make roads slippery, reducing tire traction and increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Other common concerns include stress and fatigue, jackknifing, unsuitable tires for the winter, battery failure, road salt, traction loss, and low visibility.
  • Black ice is arguably one of the most dangerous winter driving hazards because it blends with the road, making it hard to spot.

As the seasons change and the year comes to a close, new driving hazards come into play. Take measures to avoid them. Otherwise, your holiday trips might take a turn for the unexpected, which could involve anything from a hospital visit to getting stuck in a snowbank.

To prepare for hazardous winter driving, you must familiarize yourself with the most common driving hazards during the holiday season.

Ice and Snow

Unsurprisingly, the most common driving hazards in the holiday season are ice and snow.

Snow can cover the road quickly, reducing the tire traction and increasing the risk of losing control of your vehicle. Meanwhile, ice makes the streets slick, making skidding more likely when braking. It’s no wonder collisions become more common during the holiday season.

If you park your daily driver outside, you also run the risk of getting snowed in. Not only can the snow make it hard to get into your ride, but it can also freeze various parts, affect their functionality, and cause starting issues.

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car parked outside got snowed in
If you park your daily driver outside, you also run the risk of getting snowed in.

Parking your vehicle in a garage is the best way to avoid getting snowed in. It also pays to pack a shovel in the trunk in case you need to clear a path for your vehicle while you’re out on the road.

Stress and Fatigue

As the year comes to a close, the fatigue from work and the holiday hustle kick in for many drivers, making them tired, drowsy, or easily frustrated. These things can impair their ability to think, react, or make good decisions on the road.

If you can relate, make sure to get some rest every now and then. Avoid driving when you’re exhausted if you can and consider alternate methods of travel if you can’t put off a trip.

Jackknifing

Jackknifing refers to how trucks and vehicles with trailers can skid out of control and swivel, folding in on themselves. This creates a V-like shape where the cab and the trailer swivel and divert from where they’re linked.

The term “jackknifing” comes from how jackknives work, with the blade folding out from the handle. Even if you don’t drive a truck or vehicle attached to a trailer, it still pays to know about this risk.

Be cautious when you’re on the road with any vehicle with a trailer, especially during the holidays when roads are often slippery.

Tires Not Suited for Winter

Regular tires are not great for winter driving. They tend to freeze and become harder and more rigid when temperatures drop, making them less effective at maintaining traction on the road.

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If your holidays involve a lot of driving, consider investing in winter tires. They’re designed to resist the cold and increase traction over snowy, slippery surfaces.

Battery Failure

Battery problems are one of the most common winter car failures, so be prepared for this issue during the holiday season.

When temperatures drop below 32°F, the chemical processes inside the battery slow down, causing it to become significantly less effective at holding its charge. This is especially true for older car batteries.

Most of the time, battery failure means your vehicle will have a harder time starting up – assuming can still start. To protect your battery from sub-zero temperatures, always park your vehicle inside your garage.

Road Salt

Roads are salted to reduce snow and ice, but salt itself can also be a driving hazard. Because it’s so corrosive, road salt can damage your vehicle by eroding the undercarriage and other exposed parts.

To avoid salt damage, wash your vehicle as frequently as possible during the holiday season.

Traction Loss

Traction loss is a common problem during the holiday season because the roads become more slippery due to the weather.

The best way to avoid losing traction is to refrain from braking or accelerating too much. Stick to driving at an appropriate speed, approximately 20-40 miles per hour.

If you ever lose control of your vehicle, don’t slam the brakes as you can skid and lose control. Instead, gently press the brakes until you regain control of the vehicle.

Low Visibility

Visibility tends to be at its lowest during the holiday season due to the weather. Heavy snowfall, less sunlight, and increased volumes of fog can make it more difficult for drivers to navigate the road.

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Because visibility could get low, it’s best to slow down and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles while on the road to prevent accidental collisions. Vehicles in front of you that drive over snow and sleet can also create sprays that block your vision, so don’t get too close.

Black Ice

Finally, it’s arguable that black ice is one of the biggest hazards a driver can face during the holiday season. Simply put, black ice refers to the frozen layers of super thin ice that appear when the snow that covers the road melts and refreezes.

While regular ice and snow are bad enough, black ice is worse because it’s difficult to spot. It blends with black asphalt roads. Black ice coupled with low visibility can spell disaster for drivers in a hurry.

Caution is the best way to avoid accidents due to black ice. Drive carefully at reasonable speeds, and never assume the roads are not slippery if you don’t spot visible snow or ice.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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