Just the thought of winter driving sends shivers through Madison WI motorists. Winter storms, drifting snow, sloppy roads and ice are contributors to nearly 1 million crashes each winter, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Winter road conditions coupled with poor driving habits lead to auto body repairs throughout southern Wisconsin.
Common Winter Driving-related Damage
Fewer hours of daylight, storms, snow and frosted windshields all contribute to winter vehicle accidents. The challenges of safe driving are compounded in winter when Mother Nature conspires against you. Statistics show that most wintertime accidents are of the fender-bender variety on streets and in parking lots. But don’t get over-confident. More than 100,000 serious injuries get reported by AAA each year as a result of winter car crashes.
What type of damage that sends you in for auto body repair is most common in winter? Take your pick, everything from dings and small dents to scratches, scrapes and major body damage. The list begins with relatively minor things and expands:
- Salt, sand and grit – splashed up from roadways and lodging in cracks and crevices where it leads to rust and corrosion. Loose gravel chips paint and cracks headlights and windshields.
- Dings and dents – parking lots are major arenas for winter fender benders. It’s easy to slide on poorly plowed lots, right? Since speeds are usually well below street travel the resulting collisions are seldom serious enough to keep you from driving. Auto body shop professionals offer a word of caution: don’t put off even minor repairs too long, they open up your vehicle’s surfaces to all the corrosives on the roads in winter. Saving on a small repair today is an invitation to a larger repair bill in the future.
- Bumper and fender damage – rear end collisions are among the most common winter driving accidents. Slippery roads make stopping much more difficult and sliding into the vehicle ahead of you at a stop light or in a turn lane is a threat. Damage to bumpers and sheet metal ranges from scratches in the paint to structural threats.
Leading Contributors To Winter Auto Body Repairs
There are two main factors contributing to most of the accidents on Wisconsin’s winter roads: poor visibility and slick roads.
When temperatures fall even wet roads are harder to navigate. Temperatures below freezing change the surface of the road. Add additional concerns like snow, sleet or freezing rain and roads become dangerous. Perhaps the most threatening is what’s called Black Ice. It’s basically frost on pavement that you cannot see or anticipate. In the Madison area it’s often present in the shade on streets otherwise warmed by winter sunshine. It can catch you by surprise – and sudden surprises when you’re driving are not pleasant, right?
What do driving instructors, vehicle-makers and tow truck operators suggest is the best way to handle slipper roads? The all agree: stay home, don’t drive. Easier said than done, of course. Safe driving tips for slippery conditions include:
- Be aware of your brakes – you cannot apply brake in winter as you do in summer. Quick, heavy braking leads to spinouts and rear end collisions.
- Take it easy – when you know the roads are slippery and going will be slow, give yourself extra time to get where you need to be. Don’t get in a rush.
- Keep your distance – understanding that you cannot stop as quickly on slippery roads as you can on dry ones, give yourself room between your car and the one ahead.
- Speed is critical – when conditions deteriorate it’s common sense to slow down so you can keep your vehicle under control. That doesn’t necessarily mean “crawl” but it does mean maintain a speed appropriate to the conditions – sometimes going too slow causes as much trouble as going too fast. Avoid using cruise control in most winter-time conditions.
You’re Never Safe If You Cannot See
There are more elements in play to reduce visibility in winter than any other time of year. In addition to Wisconsin’s usual menu of weather-related threats you get sleet, freezing rain, snow and ice complicating your progress. In addition, snow banks get taller and taller so even when your windshield is clear you cannot see what’s around the next bend. That’s true on highways, city streets, driveways and parking lots.
There are enough natural elements working against you, don’t make matters worse. Consider these factors you have control of:
- Clean snow off the car – there’s no excuse to creep along trying to peek out of a tiny opening in the snow packing your windshield (or go without a clear back window). Spending 5 minutes scraping snow off the windshield is a better use of time than filling out a police report at an accident scene, right? Don’t forget the roof – a deep layer of snow on the roof is destined to slide onto the rear window or windshield to block you vision very soon.
- Wipers are not scrapers – don’t rely upon your windshield wipers to scrape off heavy layers of snow or ice. Use the appropriate tools.
Vehicle Maintenance Is Winter Driving Insurance
If you know your car, truck or SUV has problems, get them attended to before the worst winter weather arrives. Any auto body repair you’ve been putting off should get done before the ice-melting corrosives spread far and wide. Protect your paint with a high-quality professional car wash and waxing. Basic, routine maintenance chores are easy and pay dividends. Consider:
- Windshield washers – make sure your windshield washer nozzles are not clogged and the reservoir is full. If you’re not sure, add fluid that’s rated for the lowest temperatures you’ll face in Madison this winter.
- Wiper blades – if your windshield wipers are leaving streaks and not cleaning evenly it’s time to get new blades. In addition, check for loose strips of rubber and cracks. They’re come apart in the cold. If you have an SUV be sure to check the rear window wiper blades, too. These are often overlooked but play a major role in keeping you safe in winter traffic situations.
- Tires – most people don’t switch to “snow tires” like their grandparents did, but making sure your tires have plenty of tread is important. Proper tire inflation is another often overlooked maintenance practice. Modern-day wheels and rims react to extreme temperature changes. So does the air in your tires. Keep track of it.
We’re Here If Winter Driving Leads To Auto Body Repair
AutoColor’s experienced body shop professionals know how to protect your car, truck and SUV. We apply the latest technology at every level from a pre-winter wash/wax to mid-winter dent and paint repairs. If a trip on local roads turns into a need for collision repair call or stop into one of our local shops: in Middleton on Parmenter Road or on Madison’s East Side on Stoughton Road near Buckeye. Even little things matter when it comes to your car, SUV or truck.
From paintless dent repairs to high-tech wiper blades AutoColor is at your service when winter driving leads to auto body repair in the Madison WI area.