SPONSORED — When the weather outside is frightful, commuting can be, well, a lot less than delightful. And if you’re feeling the winter weather pain, it’s understandable.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, of the more than 5.8 million vehicle crashes each year, 23 percent are caused or impacted by the weather. With rain, snow, sleet, ice and fog joining the commute during the winter months, taking to the freeways, surface streets and even sidewalks can be an annoying — and dangerous — chore.
Before you set out, plan your commute with frightful weather in mind.
Fall back, but not all the way back
This time of year, clocks are falling back an hour and mornings are, once again, a little lighter. Rather than enjoying every last minute of that extra hour of sleep, use your old routine as a way to start your day a little earlier. Getting up even 20 minutes before your usual wake-up time will feel a whole lot easier if you start soon after the clocks change. And those extra 20 minutes can be a lifesaver when you’re stuck on a crowded, rainy or snowy commute.
Amp up the gear
If you’re a bicycle commuter, you likely love the ability to bypass freeways and surface-street traffic jams. That said, cycling in wind, rain, snow and even fog can be intimidating, not to mention dangerous. Before the weather becomes volatile, take some time to winterize your bike. People For Bikes recommends using tires with 32- to 42-millimeter thickness, like those on a mountain bike, hybrid or touring bike, which will offer more traction on snowy roads. Adding fenders to your wheels will also help you keep pants and shoes dry on the wettest days. And since winter mornings and evenings are often foggy and dark, headlights, tail lights and reflective gear are absolutely critical.
Prep the car
You might not be able to avoid winter driving havoc, but you can make sure your car is prepared for the worst of it. Before the winter season really begins greeting the roads, take your car in for a service. Make sure tires are in good condition, balanced and properly inflated. If you don’t already have all-season tires on your car, swap them out for winter tires. Keep your trunk stocked with winter emergency essentials, including sand or kitty litter to help you out of slick situations, along with flares, food and blankets for emergency situations.
Get off the streets
It might seem impossible, but the easiest way to avoid winter commuting trouble is to stay off the roads. With an advanced and convenient public transportation system, there are plenty of ways to get to school and work without getting behind the wheel. And starting in spring 2016, Seattle drivers will get an even bigger break. Sound Transit will be opening new Link light rail stations at the University of Washington and Capitol Hill. This means you can commute from Capitol Hill to University Street in six minutes by traveling over, under and through the gridlock.
Walk the (safer) walk
If walking in a winter wonderland is part of your commute, gear up for safe travels. Whether you walk your entire commute or just the distance from the light rail station to your school or office, your little stroll can become dangerous when the weather gets sloppy. To prevent injuries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges pedestrians to carry flashlights with them when they walk and only cross the street at designated crosswalks or intersections. Wearing weather-appropriate footwear is also critical to prevent slipping and falling.