After several months of beautiful spring and summer weather, once the snow starts to fly, it seems like we all forget exactly how to drive according to the winter weather conditions. Roads can become snowy, icy, and extremely treacherous, all in a matter of a few short hours. It would be nice to park the car in a warm garage for months, but this isn’t a practical idea for most people. Instead, we need to follow a few simple rules that will help reduce the chances of becoming stranded in the cold, or being involved in a nasty collision. Safety and preparation are the two essential keys to survive another season of frigid weather.
- First and foremost, bring your car in for a routine maintenance check before winter begins. Your vehicle should be in top running condition in order to last through the harsh temperatures and heavy snowfalls that come with winter. Your local mechanic or service station will check and top up your windshield fluid, oil, and antifreeze, as well as check and replace – if necessary – your battery, air filter, and wiper blades. Make sure that your tire pressure is equal and correct, and that your tires are not leaking air.
- Keep your gas tank level at least half full at all times. This will help to prevent the gas line from freezing when the temperature drops.
- Before driving anywhere, even to the gas station or convenience store, brush off your entire vehicle. This includes the hood, roof, headlights, and taillights. Snow left on the hood could blow up onto the windows, reducing visibility. When you scrappy your windows, scrape them entirely, not just a small area for the driver to see out of. You need to use your full range of visibility, especially in winter.
- Always drive according to the weather conditions. This applies to all seasons, not just winter. Slow down and allow yourself more time for breaking on icy streets. Keep ample space between you and the vehicle in front of you, just in case they make a sudden stop. Many winter accidents are caused by following too closely and not having enough time to stop before sliding into the back of another vehicle.
- If you are traveling long distances, make sure that you are prepared in case you become stranded. Monitor the weather reports before you travel and be prepared to change your travel plans. If you find yourself traveling in poor conditions, safely pull over if possible. It is better to arrive late to your destination to not arrive at all. Always bring a fully charged cell phone and an emergency kit. This kit should include blankets, extra clothes and boots, a flashlight, high energy food, and water. Never talk or text on your cell phone while driving. If you find it necessary to use your phone, pull over to make or answer the call.
- Also carry an emergency car kit with essential winter equipment. This kit would include a tow chain, road flares, jumper cables, a small shovel, a brush and window scraper, and kitty litter or sand for tire traction.
- If you happen to get stuck, stay in your vehicle. NEVER leave and try to walk for help. Hypothermia can set in very quickly, causing you to become disoriented and Can lead to death. Run your engine every hour to keep warm, and crack your window open to avoid getting the gasses inside the vehicle. Tie something brightly colored on the antenna to alert passing motorists.