With the winter snow flying already in Michigan and elsewhere, now is a good time to review some winter safety tips. Everyone is aware of these tips, but they can easily be forgotten over the course of a long spring, summer, and fall season. So when winter rolls around again, most of us have already forgotten our good habits driving through inclement conditions, and we are sometimes surprised by the impact weather has on driving conditions. So you don’t get surprised this year, it would be a good idea for you to re-acquaint yourself with some of the most useful driving tips for the winter. The last thing you’ll want is to make a foolish mistake behind the wheel, and find that your car needs some auto body repair after having been in a collision. Winter driving conditions can be very treacherous, and it’s well worth your while to do what you can to prepare.
Have your vehicle prepared for winter
The first thing you should check when you’re preparing for winter is your tires, since these are the number one components contributing to safety. It’s also important that you have good traction as you drive through winter snow and ice. It has been determined that under such conditions you can generally stop somewhere around 50% faster on poor road conditions when your tires have good traction. After making sure you have good tires, think about items that you want to pack in your car when you’re traveling any distance. The things that can be really helpful include the following: First Aid kit, sand for gripping the snow, a snow brush or an ice scraper, an emergency kit, jackets or blankets, and emergency food and water.
If you ever happen to be stuck somewhere on the road in bad weather conditions, you’ll appreciate having these items and even more on hand in your vehicle. Every time you start out driving somewhere in the winter time you should make sure that any snow or ice have been removed from the hood and grill of your car, from your door windows and mirrors, and from the rear window and tail lights. It’s very important that these components be cleared of snow and ice, so that you can drive safely where you need to. When driving through wintry conditions, turn your low beam headlights on so that you are easily seen by other drivers on the road.
Given that winter driving requires more from your vehicle, and the hazards of getting stuck in bad weather are so extreme, you should take the time to make sure that all aspects of your vehicle are prepared for the task. Some components to check on your car include the battery and the ignition system, since these can definitely be affected by cold weather and can cause failures. You’ll also want to know that the heater is in good working order, if you should happen to be stuck in snow somewhere.
It goes without saying that your brakes need to be operating at peak efficiency, because road conditions are almost always significantly worse in winter time than they would be at any other time of year. Make sure all your headlights, tail lights, and all other lights are operational and allow your vehicle to be clearly seen by others on the road. You’ll also want to know that your windshield wipers are operating efficiently, especially when there’s heavy snow or rain, to keep all that nasty stuff off your windshield, so you can see and drive properly. Lastly, make sure to check the fluid levels on your vehicle, so you don’t unexpected run out of wiper fluid, transmission fluid, or any other fluid that helps your vehicle to operate more efficiently.
Winter driving is a little different from good weather driving, and generally will allow for less traction than you would find on bare, dry roads. That means every time you get behind the wheel in winter time, you’re more likely to be involved in some kind of an accident or have some kind of driving mishap on the road. To minimize the chances of you getting involved in some kind of problem, you should adapt your driving in winter time to the conditions prevalent. Be especially careful when you are aware that you’re running behind schedule – don’t try to make up that lost time by driving faster on your trip. This kind of attitude is responsible for far more accidents than you might think, and it’s a dangerous mentality to have.
It will help tremendously if you leave extra space between yourself and other motorists on the road, drive slower and brake sooner, make slower turns, accelerations, and stops, and if you give yourself more time to reach your destination. Even cars with four-wheel drive have difficulty stopping on ice in winter, so you can count on your car being subject to the same constraints. If you should ever find yourself in the midst of a prolonged skid, make sure not to panic. The best way to react is to remove your foot from the accelerator, and turn into the skid without slamming on your brakes.
You should also be mindful of the glare of the sun, because it’s generally angled lower in the sky during the winter months. This can obstruct your vision and make driving somewhat dangerous, especially if you happen to be driving in the direction of the sun itself. If you do have any trouble seeing traffic on the road, slow down and leave lots of space between yourself and other vehicles. It’s a good idea to have a pair of sunglasses in the car to combat the glare. Keep in mind that when the weather gets really nasty, your best bet would be to just stay home and delay the driving trip you had in mind. If you’re forced to go out into bad driving conditions, just make sure that you are totally alert and that your car is prepared for those conditions.