Five Winter Tips for Driving Your Car Safely in Snow and Ice
There are a lot of things that can prevent you from reaching your destination safely while driving in the winter. Every year, tens of thousands of accidents, from major to minor, occur due to careless driving in wintery conditions. Don't let yourself be one of the unfortunate people who experiences injury or vehicle damage because of being unprepared for the season.
While I do not drive, I consider myself a professional passenger. I'm the kind of passenger who (when I don't fall asleep during the car ride) will do things like open soda bottles for the driver so he/she can keep both hands on the wheel, take care of small distractions like shifting items in the car, changing cds or tuning the radio station, watching for objects in the roadway, etc. The following are my tips for a safer drive in the snow, sleet and/or ice.
Vehicle Emergency Kits
First, whether you're just driving across town, or driving across the country, always check up on road conditions. There are a number of websites you can check, as well as television channels to keep an eye on, and the information you gain from checking ahead can save you hours of waiting in traffic that is inching along, or can keep you from taking unexpected detours because of emergency road closure. Noting the conditions on the road can also help you to plan a change in route ahead of time - for instance, if there's been a lot of snow and the route you usually take is a back road, try and plan to take major roads and freeways, if only because you'll be travelling through areas that are more likely to be cleared and salted in a timely fashion by the county/city road crews.
Second, make sure your car is in good condition. You wouldn't run a marathon without good running shoes, so why would you try and drive in nasty weather without working windshield wipers, tires in decent condition, plenty of antifreeze and a working heater in your vehicle? Always check your car's liquids (oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid) and make sure the rubber parts are also in top shape. While these factors are minor in the long run, having a check list of items you keep under control means better vehicle performance overall.
Third, if you find yourself skidding, that is – turning in a direction uncontrollably – the old rule was: always turn the wheel slowly so your car moves into the turn, rather than away from where your car is trying to turn in the first place. Professional advice for avoiding skids is two-fold:
- Slow down! Most skid situations come about because you’re driving too fast.
- Don’t slam on the brakes! If you hit the brakes, your wheels will try and stop turning, and you will not be able to guide the car anywhere near where you’d like to go.
Modern defensive driving techniques and tips for “skid recovery” can be found at: http://www.roadtripamerica.com/DefensiveDriving/Rule30.htm
The fourth tip for driving safely in inclement weather is to bundle up. This means wear weather-appropriate clothing. In the event that you do have an accident and need to abandon your vehicle, you will become ill and can harm yourself severely if you are out in the snow and ice in a t-shirt and jeans. Your mom is shivering so wear a jacket.
Finally, and another minor detail that could save the life of you or someone you love, your vehicle should have a first aid and emergency kit in it at all times. This is fairly self-explanatory, but here’s a list of items that should be present in a vehicle emergency kit:
- Batteries (for flashlight, and an extra cell phone battery wouldn’t hurt.)
- Miniature road cones with reflective strip
- A store bought first aid kit
- Jumper cables
- A quart of oil
- Duct tape
- Paper towels
- Spare fuses
- Spare headlight bulb
- Windshield fluid
Feel free to change that list to suit your personal needs, such as if you were hyperglycemic, you’d want to add an energy bar of some sort or even some plain granola or dried fruit to munch on if you’re stuck for long periods of time waiting for assistance.
Hopefully, by paying attention to these tips and keeping your eye on the road, you’ll be able to make a much safer journey when driving this winter, and every winter. If you have any other tips, please leave them in the comment section below.