Tips For Winter Driving
Winter driving can be hazardous and stressful. Wind, snow, ice and blizzard conditions increase the normal dangers of driving. There is a lot you can do before the winter driving season and during a storm to protect yourself and your family.
Before winter arrives, have your car inspected to be sure it is ready for the road conditions. You can do this yourself or take it to a qualified mechanic. Check the battery, wipers and fluid, thermostat, brakes, ignition system, antifreeze, exhaust system, lights, oil level, heater and defrosters. Make sure everything is in good working order to keep you safe throughout the cold weather.
Check your tires to be sure they are road ready. Install tires that are appropriate for the driving conditions. In moderate amounts of snow, all weather radials will do the job nicely. If you live in a climate where you experience a lot of snow, consider snow tires. These have better tread to deal with snow and ice.
Prepare an emergency kit to keep in the back of your car. This will ensure that you are prepared in the event that you get stuck in the snow. Things to include in the kit:
- Ice scraper
- Small broom
- Small shovel
- Kitty litter or a bag of sand (to give traction if you get stuck in snow or ice)
- Blankets or a sleeping bag
- Flashlight with batteries
- Flares or warning triangles
- Plastic bags
- First aid kit
- Tool kit
- Jumper cables
- Bright cloth to use as a flag
- Help sign for back window
- Extra hat and gloves
- Food and water to sustain you if you get stuck
- A book or cards to keep you busy and calm in the event you get stuck.
- Charged cell phone (always carry this, especially in the winter)
Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. This adds weight to the car and will ensure that you won’t run out of gas in the event you get stuck.
Driving in the Snow
Pay attention to the weather forecasts and road conditions in the winter months. If the weather is bad, stay home if at all possible. If you must venture out, travel in the daylight. You are more likely to find help if you get stuck during the day. Never warm up your vehicle in the garage. This releases carbon monoxide, which is toxic and can kill you.
When driving, always wear your seatbelt. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun reflecting off the snow. Know your car and how it handles in the snow. Features like traction control and antilock brakes can be useful in bad weather conditions. Know how these work and if your car is new, practice driving it in a snow covered parking lot before venturing out on the road.
Take it slow, especially in icy conditions. Don’t tailgate and be sure to allow a safe distance between vehicles. Do everything slowly, stopping, accelerating and turning. Leave plenty of time and space to maneuver. Sliding and skidding usually happen when turning, stopping or accelerating. Going extra slow will ensure your safety.
If the visibility is low, slow down even more. Consider getting off highways and driving even slower. This will take you out of the path of large trucks that can cause accidents. Use only your low beams, as your high beams will reflect back off the snow and won’t increase your visibility. Turn on your hazard lights to be sure other drivers see you.
In the event your car gets stuck, don’t get out. Put up the hood and tie your cloth to the antennae. This will make you more visible to emergency vehicles and other drivers. Keep the windows, air grill and tail pipe clear of snow. Wrap up in blankets and huddle up with passengers to stay warm. Run the heat for fifteen minutes each hour to keep from freezing. Move your body around to stay warm.
Keeping your car clean throughout the winter is important. Salt on the roads is important for safety, but will wreak havoc on the finish. If left on for long periods, it can cause rusting. Wash your vehicle weekly to remove salt and wax to protect the paint. Salt also leaves a coating on your headlights that can impair their operation. This will make you less visible to other vehicles. New Lite Headlight Cleaner and Restorer will return the lights to like new condition.