Driving Blind in Winter – How to Handle Poor Visibility on Winter Roads

In winter, the roads can be extremely icy or foggy. Awareness of these conditions and applying the proper precautions when driving is essential.

Poor visibility is standard in many winter run-off road accidents. It’s often because drivers fail to anticipate the changing weather conditions on the road.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Keeping your eyes open is an important skill when driving during the winter. It’s especially essential when navigating snowy roads with limited visibility and other drivers who may be skidding or sliding in front of your vehicle.

If you cannot see the road clearly, shift your gaze down and to the right to use the white line on the side of the road or the lane markings as a guide. This can help you avoid being blinded by oncoming headlights and other hazards hiding in the darkness ahead of you.

You should also check your blind spot before changing lanes on the highway to ensure that nothing lurks behind you that could obstruct your view. This is important because it could be deadly to hit another vehicle if they are in your blind spot.

Stay Far Away From Other Vehicles

Poor visibility on winter roads can make it harder to see cars and other vehicles. To stay safe, you must look far ahead and always keep your eyes on the road.

The Ford Driving Skills for Life Team suggests looking at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead — about one block in the city or a quarter of a mile at highway speeds. This allows you to identify problem situations and react early.

Be especially careful when approaching an intersection or crosswalk with other vehicles. They may be about to cross or move into your lane.

Also, look behind you when slowing down a hill or long incline. This will allow you to check for signs, poles, or other stationary objects that may slow or stop the rear of your vehicle.

Lastly, watch for snow plows and other large vehicles. These vehicles have more significant blind spots than cars and are more likely to change lanes unexpectedly, exit the road, or be in the way of other vehicles.

Don’t Distract Yourself

Distractions can make it hard to stay focused on the road. They can cause you to miss important cues, like an animal on the road or a car trying to enter your lane.

It can even be a risk to your safety. If you are distracted, take a deep breath and focus on what’s happening around you.

This might mean turning off the music or changing the radio station. Or it could mean putting your phone away and focusing on your passengers instead.

Aside from visual and manual distractions, there’s also the issue of cognitive distraction.

Drivers who have trouble concentrating on the road are often the culprits of fatal accidents. They may chat or talk to someone inside the vehicle, eat or drink, or get lost in their thoughts.

Be Prepared

Winter roads are often slippery, making seeing cars ahead of you harder. If visibility is limited, slow down and stay alert.

Use your headlights and signal early to let other drivers know you’re oncoming. This will give them time to avoid a collision or slow down in advance.

Be aware that fog and rain can reduce visibility even further, and high-beam headlights will reflect off the moisture droplets to obscure vision more.

In such conditions, it is best to keep low-beam headlights on. Fog lights also help illuminate a larger surface area, making it easier to see your surroundings.

Changing lanes can be challenging in poor visibility, and you’ll need to check your blind spots before attempting to merge into traffic. A brief look around your shoulder and a few glances in your side-view mirror every 3-5 seconds will ensure you’re safe before moving over.