Winter has arrived in Rhode Island and with it comes the snow and ice. Driving becomes more challenging, so it’s important your take additional precautions. Here are some tips to help keep you safe when you’re traveling this winter.
Watch the Weather
Winter weather is notoriously unpredictable. Consequently, a wise precaution is to check the weather before you drive, especially if you’re travelling a long distance or in a remote area.
If you must drive in poor conditions, let someone know the route you intend to take and what time you estimate you’ll arrive. Cellphones may not work in remote areas, but the person can alert the authorities if something is amiss.
Inspect Your Vehicle
Nothing brings out the worst in a vehicle than cold weather. Your vehicle must have a good battery, working lights, properly inflated tires with little wear, and at least a half tank of gas. Otherwise, you could find yourself stranded in very harsh conditions.
Prepare for Emergencies
Program emergency numbers into your cellphone and pack supplies in your trunk. Include gloves and a hat, an insulating blanket, snacks, sand or kitty litter, and a first aid kit. It’s always a good idea to carry a water bottle with you in the front of the vehicle, too.
Hone Winter Driving Skills
Driving during the winter requires time. You cannot rush acceleration, turning, or braking, or you can start to skid. Consequently, it takes twice as long to stop and longer to get to where you’re going.
When possible, keep moving and apply your brakes as little as possible. Slippery roads make it harder to get moving again if you come to a complete stop. If you do need to brake, apply pressure in small increments instead of steady pressure. Too much pressure can cause your vehicle to skid.
When you need to drive up a hill, increase your speed slightly before the incline so you have momentum to climb. Decelerate at the crest and coast down the hill. Try not to stop on a hill, because it can be difficult to start moving again if the road is slippery.
If your area is hit with a big blizzard, don’t go out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even experienced drivers can have accidents driving in poor weather conditions and often times it’s others that cause them.
If you are stuck in the snow, stay with your vehicle. It provides protection from the elements and it’s easy to become disoriented in a snow storm. You can try to free your vehicle by pouring sand or kitty litter under the wheels and rocking it forward and backwards. However, try not to overexert yourself if you’re trying to push or dig yourself out.
During the night, keep the dome light on so drivers can see you. If you need to run your vehicle to stay warm, check that the exhaust pipe is free of snow, ice, and mud to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Run the engine until you take off the chill, and then turn your vehicle off to conserve fuel.
Review Insurance Coverage
According to the Federal Highway Administration, twenty-seven percent of weather-related vehicle accidents occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, while 17% occur as snow or sleet fall. Unfortunately, winter driving also results in fatalities.
It’s always important to have sufficient automobile insurance coverage, but risk increases during the winter driving season. State minimums do not offer proper protection, so discuss your needs with your independent insurance agent.