Stay Safe This Winter With These Driving Tips
Winter is officially here and while we haven’t had too much winter weather yet, it’s only a matter of time before we encounter some. Driving in snowy weather most definitely poses many risks and challenges for motorists and regardless of how experienced of a driver you may be, we could all use a reminder about how to stay safe and avoid car accidents when the roads are covered with snow.
First and foremost, stay home if it’s not absolutely necessary for you to be out on the road. Even if you’re good at driving in the snow, that doesn’t mean everybody else is and there’s no sense in putting yourself in danger if there’s no need to be out and about.
If driving in snowy conditions is unavoidable, be sure to take your time and drive slowly. Everything about driving takes longer to do when the roads are slick. Turns need to be taken slowly and sudden stops or accelerations can lead to skidding. When trying to accelerate from a complete stop, start by applying gentle pressure to the accelerator, just enough to get yourself in motion. If your wheels start spinning, ease up on the accelerator until the tires regain traction. Never use cruise control when the roads are slippery.
Make sure you leave plenty of following distance between yourself and other cars on the road. When roads are slick, you need extra time to be able to react to what’s happening ahead of you. It takes a car four to ten times longer to brake on a snowy or icy road than it does on a road under normal circumstances. Under normal circumstances, a following distance of three to four seconds is adequate. When roads are snowy or icy, this should be increased to eight to ten seconds.
When approaching a hill, try to build momentum before you start heading uphill. Don’t accelerate or stop your car while going uphill. Once you get to the top of the hill, apply the brake gently so you go down slowly, but without coming to a complete stop.
Even if your vehicle has four-wheel drive, remember this doesn’t make your car invincible in snowy conditions. Many people get a false sense of security when they have a four-wheel drive vehicle. Four-wheel drive gives your car’s tires enough torque to be able to better handle snow covered roads, but you still need exercise caution when driving to keep yourself and other motorists safe.
If you must take a long distance road trip this winter, be sure to check the weather forecasts for the areas you’ll be driving through so you don’t unexpectedly encounter inclement weather. If at all possible, either delay or plan your route around any potential bad weather that could be in your path. Try to stay on highly traveled roads as much as possible since they are more likely to be in better condition and it will be easier for help to get to you if your car happens to go off the road. Let a friend or relative know the route you’re planning to take and about how long you expect it will take to arrive at your destination. And, of course, be sure to wear your seatbelt and bring things such as flashlights and batteries, bottled water, non-perishable food, blankets, and extra warm clothing just in case you get stuck in your car for an extended amount of time.
For more winter road safety tips, AAA has an excellent pamphlet with everything you need to know to stay safe this winter.