Winter Driving - Tips for Staying Safe on the Road
Driving in the winter is certainly more challenging than driving during the summer months. It isnít only the ice and snow on the road that creates challenges for drivers. Winter driving is also more difficult on your eyes. Letís examine how winter conditions can impact your eyes and then look at some important winter driving safety tips.
Increased risk of UV exposure
The winter sun puts you at a greater risk for UV exposure than the summer sun. This is due to several factors including the fact that UV rays reflect off of the snow. As many as 85% of UV rays can be reflected into your eyes off of snow.
You are at the greatest risk for UV exposure on cold, overcast days. Even if it is overcast UV rays are still present and snow on the ground can reflect these rays. If you at a higher altitude the atmosphere will filter out fewer UV rays. It is estimated that every 1000 feet of altitude has 4% more radiation than sea level. This means that if you are at 5000 feet your eyes are exposed to as much as 20% more UV radiation.
In addition the winter sun sits in a lower position in the sky during the winter months. This can lead to an increase to UV radiation exposure. The winter sun and weather conditions also lead to more glare which can make it hard to see and can even lead to a temporary form of blindness known as snow blindness.
Protecting your eyes from the winter sun
UV radiation can lead to severe eye damage and even blindness later in life. The more radiation you are exposed to the higher your chances of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and eye and eyelid cancer. These radiation effects are even more detrimental to the eyes of children. Make sure that you wear sunglasses when you go outside or drive during the winter months as well as throughout the rest of the year. You can also wear sunscreen on your face and around your eyes to further reduce your radiation exposure.
Even if you are only going to be outside for a couple of hours you should still protect your eyes. You can get cornea burns in as little as one hour. Never look at the sun or at any of its reflections on water, ice or snow.
Safe driving requires all of your concentration, especially when visibility is compromised and the roads are slick. Avoid participating in distracting activities while driving. Donít eat, talk on your cell phone or read maps while you are behind the wheel. If a distraction comes up, pull the car over and take care of it before continuing on the road.
Prepare your vehicle for winter conditions
You can also take preparations for safe winter driving before you ever start your journey. Prepare your vehicle in advance by making sure that your fluid levels are where they need to be and that your battery is in good condition. If you do need to jump start your battery make sure that you follow the manufacturerís recommended procedures since failing to do so can cause battery acid to spray into the eye causing serious damage.
Get regular eye exams
Knowing that you have the necessary vision to safely operate a vehicle is important, especially during the winter. In the winter months visibility may be reduced and there are fewer hours of daylight which makes it more difficult to see. Other drivers have trouble dealing with the glare of the sun on snowy and icy surfaces. Get your eyes checked out at least once a year and remember that it is harder to see in the winter, so slow down.
Clear your car before driving
Before you hit the road take time to clear any ice and snow from your car. A foggy windshield will reduce your visibility and make it more difficult to see. If you leave snow on the roof of your car it may fall while you drive and create an obstruction to your visual field. Being able to see properly is an important part of driving so in addition to making sure that your eyes are fit for the job you also need to make sure that you keep foreign objects from blocking your vision.
In addition to clearing ice and snow you should also take a few minutes to warm your car which will keep your windows from fogging up. Make sure that you warm your car outside, not in the garage or carport since this can lead to toxic and even deadly fumes.
Donít drive when you are impaired
Drinking and driving is never a good choice, but other forms of impairment can be just as deadly. Donít drive if you are tired, unable to concentrate or if you have been taking medications that may interfere with your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Making sure that you are ready to drive is an important part of being a safe driver.
Remember that itís winter
The winter months are more dangerous times for driving, so you need to be cautious and aware at all times. During the winter plan on leaving a little earlier each day so that you donít have to rush to work and appointments. Plan on having ice on the road and slow driving conditions to reduce your stress and so that you can allot plenty of time for travel.
Winter driving is more dangerous than driving during other times of the year, but by following these precautions you can be a safer driver all year round.
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