Are You—and Your Car—Winter Road Ready?
Winter brings with it the cheerfulness of the holiday season, but unfortunately, it also brings weather that can be tough on you, as a driver, as well as on your vehicle. It’s important to prepare for these weather conditions so you can make things easier on yourself and keep you, your passengers, and other drivers safe on the road this season.
Safety Tip #1: Expect Varying Road Conditions
Each year, 24% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement and 15% happen during snowfall or sleet. Your task as a safe driver is to know how to adjust your driving to meet conditions on the road when you must travel, or to know how to maintain a modicum of safety when you find yourself in bad weather.
Streets and highways covered with snow, snowpack, or ice are extremely hazardous. And when snow or ice begins to melt, the slush or wet surface acts as a lubricant and traction is reduced—also creating serious hazards.
DriversEd.com’s 8 Rules for Safe Driving this Winter
It’s important to prepare for hazardous weather conditions so you can make things easier on yourself. These tips should help keep you out of trouble.
- Keep your windows and windshield clear and clean at all times
- Do not use cruise control during winter
- Use low-beam headlights and windshield wipers to maximize visibility in snowy weather
- Increase your following distance to 8–10 seconds
- Always go slow—slow to a crawl on ice and as you approach curves and intersections
- Carry tire chains just in case (and learn how to attach them beforehand)
- Don’t slam on the brakes, should you slide/skid on ice. Ease up off the accelerator and turn your front wheels in the direction of a skid
- Keep your gas tank at least half full
Make sure you are able to see and be seen. If you drive in rain or snow, make sure to stop sometimes to wipe mud or snow off your windshield, headlights, and taillights.
Safety Tip #2: Winterize Your Car
When prepping for cold weather madness, one thing that often gets overlooked is winterizing our vehicles. Just like we need a warm coat, gloves, and a scarf, when the weather turns brisk, our cars need extra gear to ensure they can handle the icy conditions and freezing temperatures, too.
How to Winterize Your Car
Upgrade to winter wiper blades. Winter rain and snow can do a number to your existing wiper blades. And, as we all know, seeing the road is key. Winter blades boast a thick rubber coating that clears ice, snow, and sludge from the windshield more effectively than standard blades. What's more, the rubber coating protects any parts from freezing in the cold.
Install winter tires. Cold weather naturally decreases the air pressure in your tires (and driving on low tires makes your engine work harder and eats up more gas). So, make sure to check the psi every 2 – 4 weeks, no matter how freakin' cold it is out there. If you live in snowy conditions, consider upgrading to winter tires as driving in snow dulls the tread. Tip: never mix radial tires with other types of tires.
Assemble a winter driving kit for your car. When the weather gets chilly, it’s even more important to expect the unexpected on the road. The kit should include items like a shovel, an ice scraper, a small container of rock salt or cat litter (for traction), a blanket, a flashlight, road flares, jumper cables, a first aid kit, and extra food and water.
Check your oil, antifreeze, and battery. Colder temperatures can cause oil to thicken. Use oil with a lower viscosity to keep your engine running smoothly. (Your owner’s manual should offer a recommended type of oil, and it may suggest a thinner type of oil for winter). Also, a low antifreeze level can cause the coolant to freeze, making the engine extremely hot. This could lead to blown gaskets, which can be expensive to repair. Lastly, batteries can lose up to 35% of their juice when the temperature falls to freezing. Unless your battery is brand new, it's best to have it tested by a mechanic to ensure it’ll get you through the next few months.
Safety Tip #3: Practice Defensive Driving
Lastly, consider investing in a defensive driving course to re-up your driver knowledge. A defensive driving or driving improvement course can re-teach you recovery maneuvers, train you in avoiding distractions, and make you aware (again) of the rules of the road—which may have fallen wayside as time’s passed.