Winter Driving Stresses Out More Than a Third of Drivers, Report Says

Frayed nerves behind the wheel could be particularly acute in the Midwest and Northeast, with wetter-than-average conditions forecast.

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Winter Driving Stresses Out More Than a Third of Drivers, Report Says © Winter Driving Stresses Out More Than a Third of Drivers, Report Says

The coming months are expected to bring a wetter-than-usual winter across much of the country, likely fraying many nerves behind the wheels on U.S. roadways.

A new survey from insurance company Allstate found that 35 percent of U.S. drivers say wet winter driving stresses them out, and nearly a half, or 48 percent, are concerned by the prospect. That's especially true in the Midwest, where 69 percent of drivers expressed particular concern about contending with wet wintery conditions. The Northeast, which registered concern at 68 percent of drivers. 

The results released this week by the giant insurer come amid forecasts calling for an especially wet winter for the U.S. by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"NOAA shares advanced seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for what's likely to come in the next few months and minimize the winter weather's impact on lives and livelihoods," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. 

Persistent La Nina conditions, cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific Ocean, "could still shape the character of the upcoming winter,” said Halpert. “Typical La Nina patterns during winter include above-average precipitation and colder-than-average temperatures along the Northern Tier of the U.S. and below normal precipitation and drier conditions across the South.”

The NOAA center says wetter-than-average conditions are likely across most of the northern U.S., extending from the northern Rockies, to the eastern Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley, in Hawaii and in western and northern Alaska.

Less than comforting, Allstate's online survey of 1,189 adults conducted in late October found only a quarter, or 26 percent, of American drivers feel confident in their winter-driving abilities. 

That said, 92 percent of respondents take precautions on slick roads, with 78 percent saying they put more distance between their vehicle and the one ahead, and 70 percent check on conditions before leaving home.

Additional tips for keeping precipitation from causing a collision, according to Allstate:

* Do a systems check: Make sure your head lights and brake lights are in working condition, along with tires, heater, defroster, brakes and windshield wipers, and that you have enough windshield washer fluid.

* Play it safe: Don’t drive through standing water on roads or in parking lots—it can stall your engine. Take an alternate route.

* Take it easy: Give yourself extra time to get where you’re going. Increasing following distance, traveling at slower speeds and accounting for the extra stopping time will help avoid collisions.

* Stay alert: Give the road your undivided attention. That’s especially important with slick streets and potentially-dangerous conditions.

* Don't panic: If your vehicle begins to slide or skid, don’t slam on the brakes. Look down the road in the direction you want to go and gently steer your vehicle that way. Release the accelerator until traction returns.

* Have an emergency kit: Include the tools you will need to protect yourself should a problem arise. Gloves, boots, blankets, flares, water, jumper cables, a flashlight and something for traction, such as sand or cat litter, are all helpful items to have in the car.

* Party smart: Especially during the busy holiday travel season, including one of the most deadly days on the road, New Year’s Day, Allstate strongly urges drivers to plan ahead and always find a sober ride home before partaking in holiday festivities.

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