Driving safely in winter can be difficult and dangerous, so make sure you’re keeping yourself safe by taking these tips into account.
While it can be lovely to see the first snowfall of the year, driving in winter is no joke. Almost one fourth of car crashes in the US happen on snowy, slushy or icy roads. With nearly 70 percent of the population living in snowy areas of the country, this is something that affects many Americans. However, there is plenty you can do to make yourself safer.
Some winter preparations are simple, while others need a bit more work. However, they are necessary if you want to avoid skidding, getting stuck in snow or some of the other dangers of cold-weather driving. Even prepping for the correct tires this winter is a necessity. Here are some of the top considerations when it comes to getting ready for using your car in winter.
Preparing your car
Before the first snowflakes hit the ground, you should have your car all prepared for winter. The snow and cold temperatures can be hard on the different parts of your vehicle, so you might need to swap some out for their winter variants. For example, you should top up your wiper fluid with a winter preparation, which has added de-icer to help stop your windshield from freezing over.
Your tires are another important consideration. You might want to change them out for snow tires, or opt for a high-quality all-season tire that will be suitable for both cold and warm conditions. You’ll also want to check your tire pressure. Low temperatures cause air pressure to drop, so your tires might seem deflated. It’s worth topping them up to the recommended pressure, which you should be able to find in your owner’s manual.
Battery power is another thing that drops in cold weather, so before the snows hit it can be a good idea to get a mechanic to check yours over. The Department of Transportation also recommends replacing your floor mats. The snow and slush can waterlog regular mats, which can get in the way of the pedals and become a crash risk.
No matter how well you prepare your car and drive sensibly, poor conditions can still cause an accident. Heavy snow reduces the amount you can see and makes the road slippery, and even the best driver can find themself skidding into a ditch. The best thing you can do is prepare for the worst, just in case, and this means keeping your car stocked with emergency supplies.
You might be stranded beside the road for hours in freezing temperatures, so it’s important to keep warm, hydrated and well-fed. This means you should bring:
- Warm blankets
- A flashlight and spare batteries
- Any medication you might need to take
Flares are also a good idea, as they will help other drivers and emergency services spot you.
If you find yourself stuck, there are a few things you can bring that will help you dig yourself out. A shovel is obvious, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends you bring sand or even kitty litter. Sprinkling this under your tires will improve grip and help you get out of a tricky situation.
Practicing sensible driving
Of course, none of this matters if you aren’t going to drive sensibly and safely. Most obviously, slow down and keep your distance from other cars. Stopping distances are much further in snowy and icy weather, so if you have to brake suddenly it can take you a long time to come to a stop. You can avoid many crashes by simply lowering your speed when it’s cold.
If you can find an empty parking lot or similar space, it can be a good idea to practice what to do in case of a skid. Remember to steer into the skid. This simply means turn in the direction your back wheels are skidding. So if they start sliding out to the left, turn your steering wheel to the left. Release the gas and try not to apply the brakes, as this can make the skid worse.
Speaking of brakes, make sure you know which yours are. The different types mean you have to take different actions to stop quickly. If you have anti-lock brakes, you can stomp on them and not worry about your wheels locking up. Without them, you will need to pump them repeatedly.
Following all these tips should keep you as safe as possible. Remember to always be safe, sensible and sober when driving, and don’t take any chances in cold weather. It is much better to arrive somewhere late than to not arrive at all.