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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Thursday, December 3, 2009
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Motorists Urged to Remove Snow from Vehicles this Winter
Weather Could Cause Hazardous Driving Conditions

RICHMOND - Since winter weather presents many challenges to motorists, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles encourages the removal of all snow from vehicles before driving this winter, including off the roof of vehicles. "Snow falling onto the roadway from a vehicle while it is moving is a safety hazard to the driver and other motorists on the road," said John Saunders, Director of DMV's Virginia Highway Safety Office.

When the road surface is covered with snow or ice, driving becomes hazardous and visibility is reduced. Drivers are encouraged to slow down, and increase following distance from three seconds to at least six seconds. The braking distance for road surfaces with rain, snow and ice can be from three to nine times greater than stopping distances on dry, clear roads. Icy conditions may also obscure lane markings and traffic signs.

Motorists should be aware that all types of vehicles, even those with four-wheel, front-wheel and all-wheel drive, can encounter trouble on snowy and icy roads. "No matter what you are driving, you need to change your driving behavior in bad weather," Saunders said. "No one is immune to the hazards of winter driving."

Sometimes motorists who encounter a slippery road surface react with a sudden response or over-correction, such as jerking the steering wheel to the right or left, or by slamming on the brakes. This reaction may cause the vehicle to skid, swerve into oncoming traffic or run off the roadway. Motorists can avoid sudden surprises by decreasing speed and increasing their vehicle's space cushion.

Last year, snow or sleet was a contributing factor in 1,985 traffic crashes and five fatalities in Virginia. "During poor weather conditions and anytime, remember to always fasten your safety belt and avoid all distractions," Saunders said.

Follow these tips when driving during winter weather conditions:

  • Remove all snow and ice from your vehicle, including the roof, before driving
  • Decrease your speed and increase your following distance
  • Turn on your lights, and make sure they are clear of snow and ice
  • Don't use cruise control or overdrive
  • Don't pass snow plows or sanding trucks
  • Allow for extra traveling time
  • Stay in the right lane except when passing
  • Steer with smooth and precise movements to prevent skidding
  • Remember to yield the right-of-way or reduce speed when approaching stationary emergency vehicles on roadways

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