As the temperatures begin to drop and the days get shorter, driving can get a bit more dangerous. Winter brings rain, ice, and snow to many places, which means wet roads that can be slippery. Fewer daylight hours can also mean more time behind the wheel at night. To ensure you stay safe all winter long, here are five driving tips to keep in mind.
1. Slow Down
First and foremost, if you’re traveling on wet, icy, or snowy roads, you should reduce your speed. Speed limits are based on ideal conditions, and if you are driving through heavy snow, you’re not going to be able to go as fast as you would on a clear, warm day.
Also, if you must drive in the snow, allow yourself more time to get to your destination so you don't feel rushed. And don’t think that rain is harmless — when the roads are wet, oil and other fluids from cars add to the mix, making the asphalt even slicker. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends you reduce your speed by 1/3 on wet roads and 1/2 on snow-packed roads.
2. Increase Following Distance
In addition to slowing down, you should allow for more distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. The normal following distance rule of three seconds should become six to eight seconds in wet and snowy weather. This will make it easier to stop if you need more time.
3. Use Your Headlights
When you’re driving in the rain or snow, you should also turn on your headlights. Doing so will improve your visibility and allow other drivers to see you better. While you might be tempted to put on your high beams, it's best to avoid them. The glare will reflect off the rain or snow and actually make it harder for you to see. Plus, it can also blind other drivers coming toward you.
4. Don’t Slam On Your Brakes
Unfortunately, hydroplaning is a common occurrence in bad weather, and if you find yourself losing control of your car, the natural inclination is often to brake hard. But slamming on the brakes makes things worse. It causes your brakes to lock up, which in turn makes your tires stop spinning. The result? Your car basically becomes a sled that's difficult to control.
Instead, here's how to recover from hydroplaning. If you have a front-wheel or rear-wheel-drive vehicle with traction control and ABS, gradually steer toward an open space while keeping your foot lightly on the gas. If you have a rear-wheel-drive vehicle without ABS or traction control, gradually steer toward an open space while slowly letting off the gas.
5. Avoid Quick Maneuvers
Lastly, it's easier to lose traction when the roads are wet, icy, or snowy, so take it slower in terms of not only speed but also maneuvers. Plan ahead and make well-calculated decisions. It's not the time to speed up to beat a yellow light or to quickly merge when you should really let another vehicle pass. Approach driving with a bit more patience and caution, as it's easier to lose control and cause an accident.
Sharpen Up Your Driving Skills Online
When adverse weather hits, you don't have to panic. However, you should adjust your driving for your safety and the safety of those around you. If you'd like to sharpen up your skills, and possibly earn an insurance discount, check out DriversEd.com's driver's ed and defensive driving courses. Whether you're a teen or adult, you can take convenient classes from a smartphone or computer when and where it fits into your schedule.