White powdery snow serenely falling is a beautiful sight to take in when you’re in your cozy living room in front of a roaring fire, but it’s a bit less exciting to see it falling when you’re halfway to work and know the commute home will include driving in wintery conditions.
When the weather gets colder, you need to be ready for different road conditions – snow, ice, slush, rain, and more. Read on to learn how to put yourself in a better position to be safe from winter conditions—along with your passengers and anyone you’re sharing the road with.
Prepare Your Vehicle for Driving in the Winter
A car needs to be maintained throughout the year, but winter conditions put extra pressure on your car and regular maintenance can greatly reduce the safety risks of driving in cold weather. So when you feel that first biting cold, set up a schedule for how to maintain your vehicle.
Check Your Tires. For your tires to be effective, you need enough tread on your tires and good air pressure. The tread on your tires needs to be able to grip the road. Snow tires grip the road better than your average alternative. Although snow tires are obviously a good option, start out with the basics. Your tires should have proper tread. Also, cold weather makes your tires lose air pressure, so check that they are properly inflated. Throughout the winter, make continuous checks and replace them if they aren’t in good shape.
Check Your Battery. When batteries get cold, they don’t work as well. Electric cars can drive fewer miles and need more charging time during the winter. But ordinary car batteries aren’t immune. Check your battery proactively to avoid needing roadside help during bad winter conditions.
Inspect the Basics. Brakes, lights and wipers are all essential to making sure your car is running smoothly. When you are facing an icy or snow-packed road, you want them all working. Keep an eye on your essentials all winter.
Make a Winter Emergency Vehicle Kit. Snow or ice on the ground increases the possibility of an emergency. Pack a kit and put it in your car with extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, window scraper, blankets, medications and anything else you think would be appropriate. Be prepared for everything—some other options include sand, kitty litter or salt to help with traction, cell phone chargers, blankets and a first-aid kit.
Master Winter Driving Techniques
- Inspect Your Car Before You Leave. Clear your car’s tailpipe, scrape windows, warm up the car, make sure there isn’t ice blocking your lights, and don’t leave snow on the roof. Before you can drive safely, you need to make sure the car is safe to drive.
- Slow Down. It might seem obvious, but sometimes people speed up when they are nervous on the road. Even with snow falling or ice and slush on the ground, keep calm, and drive your car slower.
- Keep Your Distance From Other Cars. If there’s ice or snow on the road, it will take more time to stop than usual. Make sure you brake earlier to allow extra room to stop.
- Think Gentle, Not Abrupt. Slamming on the brakes, hitting the gas, or swerving can lead to the car losing traction, and you may lose control of your vehicle. Be deliberate and patient with your maneuvers.
- Steer in the Direction of the Skid. When your wheels regain traction, you don’t want to have to overcorrect and cause additional sliding. If you steer into the skid you will have an easier time staying in your lane.
- Don’t Use Cruise Control. When road conditions are bad, you need to be in control every second so you can make a quick decision and can feel what speed is appropriate.
- Keep Going Up a Hill. If possible, continue driving up a hill, don’t stop. You might get stuck where you are or slide backwards if you stop.
- Know When to Sit Out. If the road conditions are terrible, don’t get into the car in the first place. If there are whiteout conditions, pull off the road to a safe place and wait for conditions to improve.
Handling Winter Weather Car Emergencies
Imagine you’re driving and a storm blows up suddenly, causing whiteout conditions. You know that sometimes you need to sit out, so you pull the car to a safe spot. And because you prepared your car for the winter, it’s in good condition and has an emergency kit. You can wait out the worst conditions where you are. You scraped your windshields and windows, swept off any snow and cleared your tailpipe before you left, but now what do you do?
Maintaining your safety in an emergency is also vitally important, here are some quick actions to take:
Put On Your Hazard Lights.
Keep Your Headlights On.
Recheck Your Tailpipe.
Make a Call if You Have Service.
These actions are simple and straightforward but critically important. The lights and hazards will increase your visibility during a situation where your car is hard to see. Checking your tailpipe will prevent carbon monoxide from pooling in your car. Making a call will allow you to let people know where you are and what situation you’re in. Patience, perhaps the most important step, will help you from making a bad decision by getting back on the road.
Hurt In a Winter Car Accident?
Drive safe but know that if you are injured in a car accident, you have a place to turn.