This time of year many of us are traveling during the holidays to spend time with friends and family. December can be treacherous with heavy snowfalls, blizzards and icy road conditions. Driving in winter conditions requires caution, planning and common sense. Here are a few tips on safe winter driving.
Check Weather Conditions
Before you brave the harsh conditions, check your weather channel for your local forecast and any road and accident reports. If the weather is bad, consider delaying your trip until the weather improves. Stick to the main highways and avoid secondary routes because they have less traffic and are not usually plowed.
As obvious as it sounds, you’d be surprised who many people do not have winter tires. Winter tires are not the same as all-season tires for several reasons. Winter tires have a deeper tread for better grip, better traction and can stop at shorter distances. All season tires start to lose their grip when temperatures drop below 7 Celcius. Check your tires and make sure they have the recommended pressure. Winter tires should be put on in early November to avoid the first snowfall panic.
Slow Down & Leave Earlier
This is a biggy. Bad weather means slowing down and adjusting your speed to the road and weather conditions. It’s estimated that there are over 1.75 million car accidents each winter season with approximately 10,000 deaths and nearly a million people experiencing injuries from minor to life-threatening. Leave your home 15 – 30 minutes earlier to avoid being delayed by bad drivers and road conditions. If you’re traveling on the highway, do not use cruise control; it’s too easy to lose control of your vehicle.
Four Wheel and All Wheel Drive Caution
Having a four wheel or all wheel drive vehicle is great for winter conditions, but be cautious. They provide the needed torque on all four tires to get you through heavy snow, but they do not, however, give you the freedom to speed and plow through bad conditions and then stop on a dime.
Snow plows are necessary. City workers are up very early in the morning to make driving conditions better for commuters. Traveling behind them can reduce visibility significantly with billows of snow, so keep at a healthy distance from the plow.
Bad weather conditions dictate keeping a healthy distance from the vehicle in front of you. It’s recommended keeping two to four car lengths between you and other vehicles in winter conditions so you can brake in time to avoid a fender bender.
Clear Snow and Ice Off Vehicle
We’ve all seen them — those people who scrap their windows just enough so they can see straight ahead. They are the ones who cause accidents because they are careless and inconsiderate. If you park in a garage, then you don’t have to worry, but for those who don’t make sure all your windows are scraped. Also, brush off any snow from the mirrors, headlights and the roof. And make sure your foggy windows are clear before driving.
Make sure your gas tank is full. Doing this will help reduce condensation in your fuel system. Condensation can freeze and create ice in your fuel lines making it very difficult to start your car.
Cell Phone & Inform Someone
If you’re traveling a long distance, make sure you tell your family which route you will be taking to reach your destination. Importantly, make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you venture out and take your charger with you as well.
First Aid and Supplies
Be prepared! You never know what can happen on the highway while driving through snow storms and icy conditions, so having supplies on hand can make the incident more comfortable. First, always make sure you have a first aid kit in your vehicle. Take water, food, blankets and extra mitts, scarves and hats. Also important is to take several flashlights, some matches, candles, hot packs, flares, a shovel and booster cables.
Frosty weather means it’s easy to get frostbite if you’re not dressed properly. Wearing warm comfortable clothing in thin layers will keep you from getting chilled and still allow mobility. Wear insulated boots and winter socks, they will keep your toes toasty and dry.
Skidding Off the Road
If you should skid off the road and land in the ditch, don’t panic. You may be able to drive out, but do not over exert yourself trying. Stay with your vehicle until help comes; it’s a protective shelter from the environment and you’ll be easier to find. Do not leave and walk along the highway, snowy weather can blind you and oncoming drivers. Leave a window on the sheltered side open a crack to let fresh air in. Use a candle to add some heat and keep your engine turned off as much as possible to avoid potential carbon monoxide poisoning – exhaust pipes may be packed with snow.
If you’re traveling during the frigid season, be a winter warrior and use common sense and caution when driving. Avoid being another statistic by taking it easy and slowing down. Reach your destination safely and have a happy holiday.