Winter driving requires a different mindset, skills, and equipment. Unfortunately, many people are ill-prepared when winter weather hits which can lead to accidents or vehicles stuck on the road.
Follow these helpful winter driving tips and reminders to stay safe during this challenging season.
Stock Your Vehicle
Even new vehicles can break down. Don’t be that person stuck on the side of the road without emergency supplies.
Pack a crate with a hat and gloves, blanket, flashlight, snacks, bottled water, jumper cables, first aid kit, extra vehicle fluids, reflectors, brightly colored flag, a folding shovel, and a small toolkit. Try to keep the gas tank at least half full during the winter too.
Check Tires Frequently
In cold areas of the country, the difference between average summer and winter temperatures can be as much as 50 degrees. This can lead to a potential loss of about 5 psi in tire pressure which can affect handling, traction, and durability. Check tire inflation frequently and replace worn tires.
When winter sets in, drivers need to think differently. Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic. If road conditions are poor, don’t drive unless it is absolutely necessary.
If you must drive, accelerate and decelerate slowly to avoid skids. It is harder to slow down and stop on slippery roads too, so reduce your speed and increase your following distance. Apply firm steady pressure to the brakes when necessary, but avoid stops whenever possible. If you can slow down anticipating a traffic light change, do it.
When traveling uphill, build some speed beforehand and don’t stop on the incline. Inertia will make it almost impossible to start moving again on a slippery surface.
When You’re Stuck
Anyone can end up stuck in the snow, so it’s important all drivers understand what they should and should not do. Most importantly, make your vehicle visible to other drivers by setting out reflectors and turning on the dome light at night. During the day, tie the plastic flag from your emergency supplies on your antenna. You can get them for free at a home improvement store.
If you’re fit, you can try to dig yourself out with your folding shovel. Some people carry kitty litter in their emergency supplies too as it provides traction. Don’t over exert yourself and take frequent breaks.
At the very least, clear the exhaust pipe. Otherwise carbon monoxide gas can leak into the vehicle, if you can start your vehicle for heat. Only run the engine and heater long enough to take off the chill.
Whatever you do, don’t wander away from your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and in a severe storm it may be the only way rescuers can find you. Wrap up in your blanket, don your hat and gloves, and call for help if you can.
Know & Care for Your Vehicle
Read your owner’s manual. If you don’t have one, look online. Electric and hybrid- vehicles sometimes include a thermal heating pack for the battery that should be plugged in when your vehicle’s not in use.
Most mechanics offer a winter tune-up package that includes an inspection of vital components such as the engine, transmission, brakes, steering, starting and charging, heating and cooling, lighting, fluids, hoses, wipers, and tires. Keep your vehicle in good working order to reduce the chances of a breakdown.
Owners should also check for recalls that could affect vehicle safety through NHTSA’s Recalls Look-up by VIN tool.
Check Your Insurance
The U.S. Department of Transportation reports about half of all weather-related crashes are due to snow or sleet or icy, snowy, or slushy pavement. Talk to an independent insurance agency like ours about your auto insurance. We can help protect you from the financial implications of damage and liability, especially during the winter driving season.