Many people travel across states in winter, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unfortunately, severe weather conditions during this time can make it difficult, even dangerous, to drive. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration, 24% of vehicle crashes occur on icy, slushy, and snowy roads each year, leading to 116,800 injuries and 1,300 deaths. They also revealed that 15% of vehicle crashes occur during sleet or snowfall, resulting in 76,000 injuries and 900 deaths each year.
As a driver, especially if you’re a beginner, you should know how to navigate the road safely during this season. You should also know how to respond to winter road emergencies. Driving cautiously during adverse weather can be a matter of life and death. Fortunately, this article aims to help you know what to do and how to prepare when driving in snowy and icy conditions. Find out below what to prepare before driving during winter, how to drive safely, and what to do in a winter road mishap.
What and How to Prepare Before Driving
Keep yourself updated about the weather forecast. Knowing when to expect heavy snowfall or sleet can help you prepare weeks or days before driving off.
As a precaution, though, get your car serviced by your local, trusted mechanic. Bring your car to your local garage and ask for a tune-up. Have your vehicle checked for worn-out hoses or leaks, and get all the necessary replacements and repairs.
You can also use the vehicle safety checklist recommended by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to get your vehicle ready. It provides instructions on how you should check your battery, lights, cooling system, windshield wipers, and other components and elements in your vehicle.
You’ll need more battery power in cold weather, so make sure that your vehicle’s battery and charging system is working at optimal capacity. All your vehicle’s lights should be working properly, too, especially your brake lights and emergency flashers. Your windshield wipers’ fluid must be full and replaced with a deicer, too. If you live in a region that gets a lot of snow than usual, use heavy-duty winter wipers.
The NHTSA also strongly suggests checking your car’s coolant. There should be enough to prevent the radiator and heater core from accumulating scale and lime buildup, which can prevent proper heating of your car. They also recommend installing proper floor mats, which can interfere with how your brake pedal or accelerator works, increasing your risk of a crash. Make sure to buy car floor mats online that are the correct size and fit for your car.
Finally, and more importantly, fit out your vehicle with snow tires. They provide more traction, allowing you to control and handle your car better on snowy and icy roads.
Know What You Can Do
All modern vehicles have safety features built in them. If you ignored them while your car salesman explained them to you, now is the time to pay attention to them. Find out more about these features in your vehicle. Typically, traction control and anti-lock braking systemare now common in cars.
Prepare for Emergencies
You may find yourself stuck in bad weather to a point where it’s not safe to continue driving. It’s best to prepare for situations like this. Equip your vehicle with an emergency kit that includes spare clothes, food, water, paper towel, blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit, and a comprehensive road map.
For your car, prepare a winter driving kit. It should include tire chains, booster cables, ice scraper, snow shovel and brush, traction mats, and towing rope. You should also bring with you some warning devices such as emergency lights or flares.
Practice Defensive Driving
With your vehicle road-worthy, you can now go on a drive. When you do, make sure to practice defensive driving. It means being alert and engaged with what’s happening around you as you drive. It also means driving at a comfortable, slow speed.
Braking or stopping on ice takes much longer. Instead of following the two-second distance from vehicles in front of you, increase it to eight seconds. This will give you enough time to stop without crashing onto vehicles up ahead.
Listen to the road as you drive. Minimize distractions in your car and keep noise to a minimum as much as possible. Snowy roads tend to make a sound as snow is kicked up. When this noise is gone, you may have moved from snow to black ice, which is a thin layer of ice on roads that tires can’t grip onto. They are slippery and dangerous.
If You Get Stuck in a Winter Emergency
For you and your family’s safety, make sure to follow these tips when you’re out to drive, whether you’re simply going to town or off on a holiday road trip. HOWEVER, the NHTSA recommends that you stay in your car if you get stuck because of bad weather. Leave your bright markers on the windows or antenna so that you can be easily seen. Just make sure to open your windows once in a whileto avoid carbon monoxide poisoning or asphyxiation.