How To Drive Safely In The Winter Time
Winter driving can be a challenge, but there are things you can do to help you drive safely in snow and ice. Frankly, the best advice I can give is “don’t”! If at all possible, stay home. But, as we all know, that isn’t possible most of the time. We have to go to work, or grocery shopping or to doctor’s appointments. If school buses aren’t available, we may be our children’s only means of transportation to school. So, if you must venture out on the roads under less than perfect driving conditions, here are some winter driving tips to help insure your safety.
Before You Leave The Garage
There are many things you can do, hopefully before winter sets in.
• Check your wiper blades. A streaky or smeary windshield will greatly reduce driving visibility. Put on new blades if your old ones don’t pass the test.
• Make sure you have plenty of washer fluids to clean the windows. Salt and sand will get thrown up on your windshield and you will need a lot more washer fluid than when you are driving in the summer.
• Antifreeze is vital to keeping the water in your radiator from freezing. Have your mechanic check the antifreeze, as there is a proper mixture to maintain.
• If your weather is consistently cold, you may need a heaver grade of motor oil. Once again, your mechanic can advise about this.
• If you live in northern climates where there is a lot snow on the roads during the winter months, you may want to consider putting snow tires on your vehicle. A set of chains is good to have if you expect to encounter ice.
• In any event, be sure your tires are properly inflated. Properly inflated tires will give you better traction on slippery roads.
• Carry an emergency kit in your trunk. It should include: a blanket, flashlight, candle and matches, water and high calorie snacks, a small shovel and sand or kitty litter for traction if you get stuck. Emergency flares are also good to have and be sure to carry a fully charged cell phone. A spray can of lock deicer can come in handy if you get caught in an ice storm.
• Before you leave, make sure you know your route and, most important, check the weather forecast. Sometimes all you need to do is to delay your departure a couple of hours until the sun can melt the snow or ice.
On The Road
If your car is parked outside, be sure to clean all windows thoroughly. You should always have a long handled window scraper/brush handy. If there is snow piled on your car roof or hood, push it off. Chunks of snow falling off your car are a real hazard to the car following behind you. Okay–now you are ready to drive. Here are some more winter driving tips for you.
• Always wear your seat belt.
• Turn off the radio and your cell phone. You need to place all your attention on the road.
• Go slower. Allow plenty of distance between your car and the one in front of you. It takes a lot longer to slow down when the roads are slick.
• Always drive with both hands on the wheel.
• Don’t use cruise control. It makes you too complacent in dangerous driving conditions.
• Avoid changing lanes. Stay in the lane that is most traveled and you will have better traction.
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Slow and steady are the keywords for driving safely in the snow.
• If you have to go up a steep hill, try to get up some speed before you actually get to the hill. Then you can go up at a steady pace. You don’t want to be accelerating on the hill because you will most likely just spin your tires.
• Use your low beams in snow or fog. High beams make visibility worse.
• If you do get into a skid, don’t brake; just steer toward the direction you want to car to go. Be careful you don’t over steer. You may have to make a few steering adjustments to get going straight again.
• If you do get stuck, stay with your car. Tie a bright rag or flag to the antenna. Keep the exhaust pipe free from packed mud or snow. Only run the engine to briefly warm the car. You can keep the dome light on because it doesn’t draw much juice.
• If at all possible, try to drive in daylight hours. Visibility is so much better then.
These are a lot of things to think about, and many of them are just common sense. But maybe you learned something new to help you drive safely in the winter. I sure hope so.