While there are risks associated with driving at any time of the year, winter driving on snow and ice can be particularly dangerous. The most important thing you can do during bad winter weather is stay off the roads so that they can be treated and plowed. But if you must venture out, here are some steps to take to make sure you get to your destination safely.
Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter
Start the winter season by making sure your vehicle is prepared for winter weather. Have your brakes checked and make sure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated. Inspect your wiper blades, and make sure you have windshield washer fluid appropriate for cold weather. Make sure to have your battery, antifreeze, defrosting system, and exhaust system inspected and repaired if needed.
Leaving on a Bad Weather Drive
If you do have to go out in bad weather, take time for a few precautionary measures. Clear all ice and snow from your car, including all windows, head and tail lights and the roof of your car. It is actually illegal in many states to drive WITH snow or ice on the roof of your car. Always leave your headlights on while driving and make sure you have a full tank of gas. Make sure your car is equipped with basic winter driving supplies – an ice scraper, sand or cat litter for tire traction, road flares, traffic cones, red flags and personal emergency supplies like blankets, a flashlight, extra clothes, water, and snack items.
AAA recommends not driving if you are tired, as winter weather driving takes even more careful attention than driving on a weather-free day. You should never use cruise control on wet, snowy, or slippery surfaces and never, ever while driving in a storm.
Trouble on the Road
If you do have trouble, try not to panic. When sliding or skidding, do NOT try to steer your car out of the skid. If you have an all wheel drive vehicle, remember that it is only designed to help you accelerate better; it won’t help you make sharp turns or keep you from skidding on ice.
Pay attention to the road and don’t rush. Slow and steady is the name of the game when driving in winter weather. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, drive slowly and carefully, keep your windows clear and use your defroster. Leave additional space between your car and other vehicles and make calculated movements, especially when it comes to turning. Keep your eyes on the road and what is happening around you. The things you see other drivers doing may give you a heads up to trouble you can’t see through traffic.
If you do have an emergency, use all your winter emergency items… turn on your emergency flashers, put out flairs or cone, make sure that your exhaust pipe is clear of snow, and make sure you are visible to the road by attaching a red flag to your car. Do not walk away from your car. You can easily get injured or lost in severe whiteout conditions. Stay in your car, stay warm, and call for help immediately.