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Safe through the winter – Tips for car drivers

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Carpets of colorful fall foliage, fog, rain and snow: The roads in the fall and winter months are full of hazards you should be aware of. Thanks to tips from AXA Research and Prevention, you'll stay safe all winter and fall.

Attentive driving can help to prevent accidents

Experience shows that there are particularly dangerous times on the roads. On Friday evenings, there are up to 15% more accidents than on other weekdays: There's more traffic, and drivers are already thinking about the weekend – so now's the time to concentrate that bit more.

With the switch to winter time, the days will get shorter again, and visibility will be increasingly impacted by fog or snow. Around one third of all accidents with personal injury happen in twilight or darkness (source: FEDRO). Car drivers should drive with special care after dusk when near schools and shopping centers. 

Poor visibility: Foot off the gas and keep your distance

The worst mass pile-ups in Switzerland have been caused by the sudden onset of fog . Rain, snow and fog don't just make visibility worse, but the road grip also deteriorates. Fog in particular can thicken from one moment to the next. Hence, keep your distance and reduce your speed.

Fall foliage: Avoid abrupt steering maneuvers

On sunny days, foliage looks pretty, but on wet days, it turns into a sliding hazard. Because car wheels have such a poor grip on the leaves, common assistance systems such as ABS and ESP can no longer perform to their full potential. In situations such as these, it is important to stay calm and to avoid abrupt steering movements.

In freezing wet conditions: Drive with special care

At 3°C or less, there is an increased risk of skidding on bridges and in forest clearings. High humidity or fog create a film of moisture on the asphalt which becomes dangerous at temperatures around freezing point. In such weather conditions, you should drive with particular caution.

Aquaplaning: Reduce your speed

On very wet roads, a type of bow wave is formed from water in front of the tires. This water cannot run off quickly enough. In the worst case, the tires lose contact with the road – and it becomes impossible to steer the vehicle. Two things help against aquaplaning: Consistently reduce speed in heavy rain. And maintain a good tire tread (at least 3 mm).

Winter tires: «October to Easter rule» and 4x4x4 rule

Winter tires should be mounted on the car from October to Easter. In addition, the 4x4x4 rule states that you should use the same four winter tires for a maximum of four years with a tread depth of at least four millimeters. Intact winter tires are essential when it comes to safety.

Wild animals on the street: How to react correctly

Most accidents with wild animals happen in the morning and evening. Keep an eye on the edge of woods and fields. If you see a wild animal, bear in mind that an animal rarely comes alone. If possible, brake fully and avoid the animal. Thanks to ABS, you can still steer your vehicle. If you do have to make an abrupt maneuver, always watch out for following or oncoming vehicles.

You can learn how to master dangerous situations skillfully by attending driver safety training.

In a Driving Center, you can practice the correct reaction when driving on slippery road surfaces, among other things. If you'd like to learn more, simply send an email to: accidentresearch@axa.ch

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