Whether an artic storm is passing through America or a few flurries are starting to land on the road, driving in the winter comes with challenges. Driving in cold, wet, and slippery conditions isn’t easy and we want to make you’re safe this holiday season.
From icy roads to reduced visibility, there are plenty of hazards to watch out for. But with the right preparation and techniques, you can stay safe and avoid accidents while driving in the winter.
Tips for driving safely during the winter season
Plan your Trips before leaving your home
Check the weather forecast and road conditions before you set out on a trip. If the weather forecast looks iffy, wait out the storm. If you must travel, share your travel plans and route with someone before you leave.
Avoid driving in severe weather if possible and plan your route ahead of time. If you do need to drive in bad weather, allow extra time to reach your destination and take it slow.
Slow down and take your time
The number one rule when driving on any snow covered road is to drive slowly. Black ice is dangerous because you can’t see it and you just have to assume you’ll encounter it on any road that you drive on.
In winter weather, always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice. Winter roads can be slippery and hazardous, so it's important to reduce your speed and leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles. This will give you extra time to react to any potential hazards and allow you to stop safely if needed.
Also keep in mind to avoid stopping when driving uphill. It’s best to avoid parking on slopes whenever possible too. This can cause your car to slide downhill in icy conditions and for you to lose control of your vehicle.
Keep your vehicle well-maintained
Before the winter season starts, make sure your vehicle is in good working order. This includes checking the condition of your tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and fluid levels. Properly inflated and treaded tires will provide better traction on slippery roads, and well-maintained brakes will ensure that you can stop safely.
Make sure your windshield wipers are in good condition and fill up your windshield wiper fluid so you can see clearly through the snow and sleet. And you should also avoid using cruise control if your vehicle has those settings.
Other car maintenance tips include:
Keep an Eye on Tire Tire Pressure
As the temperature drops, the air inside your tires contracts, causing the tire pressure to drop. If your tires are already underinflated, the drop in temperature can make the problem worse. On the other hand, if your tires are overinflated, the drop in temperature can cause the tire pressure to rise above the recommended level.
It's a good idea to check your tire pressure at least once a month and before long trips, and to follow the manufacturer's recommended tire pressure for your vehicle.
Check Fluids and Winterize
Before winter hits in full force, check to make sure your car’s fluids are all full to manufacturer specifications. It’s especially important to ensure you have a weather-resistant coolant and washer fluid.
Keep Your Gas Tank Full
Low volumes of gas can freeze in the tank or gas lines, making your car inoperable and potentially causing damage. As much as possible, keep a full gas tank during the winter months.
Inspect your car battery to make sure it works properly
During the winter season, it's important for drivers to pay extra attention to their car batteries. If your battery is more than three years old, it may be time to replace it. Cold temperatures can put extra strain on an old car battery, making it more likely to fail.
Use your headlights, even during the day
Turn on your headlights to improve visibility for yourself and other drivers on the road. This is especially important during snowstorms or other times when visibility is reduced.
Keep a safe distance between you and other vehicles
Maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles to allow for extra braking time. If you're driving in a car with a manual transmission, consider downshifting to a lower gear when going down a hill to help with braking.
A good rule to follow is to increase your following distance to 8 to 10 seconds from the vehicle in front of you.
Use caution when braking
Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
Apply the brakes gently to avoid skidding (the Youtube video we added is a great resource). If you do start to skid, take your foot off the brake and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
Avoid making sudden moves or sharp turns, as this can cause your vehicle to lose traction. Steer in the direction of a skid, so that when your wheels regain traction, you don’t have to overcorrect to stay in your lane.
Don't park under icy branches
During winter, it's common to see heavy snow and ice form on tree branches, which can be a hazard when parking your car. Parking under an icy branch can lead to falling ice or snow damaging your car or potentially injuring you or others.
To avoid this risk, it's best not to park under trees and to choose a clear area or an indoor parking spot. If you must park under trees, take the time to clear snow and ice from your car before driving off to make sure you can see clearly and to lower the chances of falling snow or ice falling onto your windshield while driving.
Be prepared for any emergency
Keep an emergency kit in your car that includes warm clothing, a blanket, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, and other essentials in case you get stranded. Make sure your phone is charged and bring a portable charger with you in case you need to make an emergency call.
By following these tips, you can help ensure a safe and smooth winter regardless of your driving conditions. Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry, so take it slow and be extra cautious on the roads this winter.