Winter Driving Mode: Kicking Hazards to the Curb
Tips to get you to and from your destination safely this winter season.
Approximately 25% of all motor vehicle accidents in the United States are attributed to adverse weather conditions. And about 70% of all fatal vehicle accidents are due to the presence of ice and snow on the road.
While slippery roads and other cold weather conditions are certainly hazardous, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce your risks while driving in the winter.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter Conditions
Driving on snowy, icy, and wet roads can create challenges not only for you but also your vehicle. To ensure that your ride is in tip top shape, make it a point to check and maintain your vehicle regularly to reduce your risk of an incident on the road.
Look for the following when inspecting your vehicle:
- A fully charged battery (if the battery is weak, consider replacing it)
- Check to make sure your car's battery charging system is functioning properly
- Properly functioning lights (including brake lights, directional lights, emergency lights, headlights, tail lights, and parking lights)
- Brakes that are working properly and would be reliable even in a difficult driving situation
- Winter tires or, at the very least, all-season tires
- Sufficient tire pressure (note that the pressure drops about 1 psi for every 5°C / 9°F drop in temperature)
- Tire balance and wheel alignment
- Check the exhaust system (check for leaks and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow)
- Check the radiator and hoses for leaks
- Check the antifreeze levels
- Verify that both the front and back defrosters are properly functioning
- Make sure the windshield wipers are working well and still in good enough condition to clear a slab of snow that may slide from the roof to your windshield
Preparing Yourself for Winter Driving
Driving in winter weather is more challenging than driving at other times of the year. Road conditions are less predictable and handling your vehicle becomes more difficult.
Therefore, to ensure that you reach your destination safe and sound you should:
- Plan the drive in advance, including alternative routes
- Avoid driving if you feel tired
- Keep tabs on the weather report and check for updates on road conditions
- Inform someone of your route and planned arrival time
- Dress in warm clothing
- If you're driving a new vehicle, familiarize yourself with it before taking off
- Warm up your vehicle before driving to reduce the condensation on the windows
- Remove snow and ice from your vehicle as this hinders visibility, including any snow on the roof
- Always keep a fully charged cell phone on you
Your Winter Driving Emergency Kit
Don't leave home empty handed - always keep a winter emergency kit in your vehicle.
To be ready for anything, make sure to keep the following in your vehicle:
- A bag of salt
- A snow shovel, a snow brush, and an ice scraper
- Booster cables and properly fitting tire chains
- Flares, portable flashlights, matches, and candles
- Fuel line de-icer and windshield wiper fluid
- Extra clothing and blankets
- A supply of food, water, and batteries
- A first aid kit
- A road map
(Learn more in First Aid Kits: The Essential List)
General Winter Driving Safety Tips
Ordinary drivers will react to the road situation, but a good driver will anticipate the dangers and try to avoid them. To be a good winter weather driver, follow these basic guidelines:
Coping in Skid Situations
No matter how hard we try to drive safely on wet, icy roads, skidding can sometimes be unavoidable. If you find yourself in a skid:
- Do not panic
- Do not brake
- Do not accelerate
- Look where you want your vehicle to go and steer in that direction
- Try to bring your vehicle to a slow, gentle stop
- If necessary, contact emergency services when you have managed to bring your vehicle to a safe stop
Keep Calm and Drive Safely
Slippery and icy roads can make driving conditions less than desirable during the winter season. So, if you must drive, please follow these tips to prepare both yourself and your vehicle for the winter weather. Being prepared can save you from a lot of frustration and maybe even your life.