When the snow starts to fall, roads can become treacherous. Snowy and icy conditions can quickly turn any drive into a challenging trip.
To prepare for the cold season, use these winter driving safety tips. They’ll help to keep you and those around you safe.
Prepare Vehicle and Winter Kit
The first step to ensure safe winter driving is to prepare your vehicle and a basic winter safety kit. While avoiding driving in snow or icy conditions is best, sometimes we have to hit the road. Take these steps before venturing out on winter roads.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of good tires during winter road conditions. Winter tires can give you the best traction because they use specialized formulas to provide softer tires that grip slick surfaces better.
While they can seem expensive, it’s worth noting that they last many years. They also force you to change your tires at least twice per year, which is a great maintenance technique that will increase the longevity of your summer and winter tires.
If you can’t get winter tires, at least get reliable all-season tires with a decent amount of tread left on them.
Take a moment to verify the air pressure of your tires. The proper inflation level is typically found near the driver’s door jamb or in the owner’s manual. In some situations, partially deflating tires can help boost traction.
You’ll also want to take care of essential maintenance items before winter driving. The cold weather can cause batteries to fail, so get your battery checked or replace it if needed. Jumper cables are always good to have around too.
Winter is also a terrible time to break down due to overdue oil changes or other maintenance needs. Take care of these before the temperatures drop and snow rolls in. You can bring extra oil, coolant, and other fluids too.
Having basic survival materials inside your vehicle can literally save your life. One that you might not think about is the gas in your fuel tank. Keep it topped off during winter drives in case you encounter traffic or get stuck.
If you get stuck and have extra fuel in the tank, you can run your vehicle to keep you warm. Ensure the exhaust fumes can readily escape and snow does not block your tailpipe. And never warm up your car in an enclosed space.
Water, blankets, hats, and gloves are essential items to keep in your car during the cold months. But you should also consider some food, any vital medications, and a flashlight.
You can bring tools and equipment to help you in case things turn south. A small shovel combined with cat litter or traction pads can help you handle many challenging situations.
Change Winter Driving Habits
Once you’ve taken the proper precautions, it’s time to hit the road. Altering your winter driving habits helps you arrive safely at your destination.
It's wise to decrease your speed when driving on snow or ice. While you don’t want to disrupt the traffic flow, taking a bit more time can help you retain control of the vehicle.
If you don’t slow down, dealing with unforeseen obstacles or events becomes more challenging. Your vehicle will take longer to respond to any input, and making quick adjustments can cause you to lose traction and control.
Avoid Hard Braking and Fast Turns
Even if you have the best four-wheel drive vehicle that can accelerate powerfully through the snow, you need to drive with extra care. The truth is, accelerating is the easy part. Slowing down and turning is where finesse is required.
Avoid slamming on your brakes at any time. This action can cause you to slide and lose control in a split-second, sending your car on an unguided trip to who knows where. Black ice is especially dangerous.
You also don’t want to approach turns with too much speed or try to jerk the steering wheel too hard. These maneuvers are quick ways to lose control and end up in a ditch, someone’s front yard, or worse.
Overall, take more time and be gentle with your driving in general.
Maintain Momentum Up Hills
Another crucial winter driving safety tip is to keep your momentum when going up hills. It can be tempting to stop to regain your composure. And sometimes there is no avoiding that.
But when possible to do it safely, keep some speed while going up icy or snow-covered steep hills. By doing so, you can continue to roll forward and get over the hill. If you stop in the middle, getting started again can be tough.
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