Any Midwesterner can tell you that despite the month, winter will stay as long as it pleases. Bringing snow, ice, and sleet in its wake, winter creates dangerous driving conditions that can result in the chilling tale of vehicle and property damage, injury, and even death. So, to avoid these unfortunate scenarios, here are 10 winter driving tips to help you keep your cool on the road this season.
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10 Essential Winter Driving Tips
1. Keep Informed of the Weather Conditions
Safe drivers know the weather conditions and their limits. Check to see if there are any weather advisories issued. Even if there isn’t, if you feel you can’t personally travel safely, don’t risk it! When it comes to safety, one of the best winter driving tips is to not drive at all. If you do choose to drive, knowing what weather to expect will help you prepare, especially if you can plan to travel when the weather conditions are the most optimal.
2. Make Sure Your Car is Weather Ready
Accidents often occur because a vehicle is not equipped to handle the weather it’s operating in. Even after preparing your vehicle for winter, there are a few steps you’ll want to continuously take before moving onto the road. This includes:
- Removing snow from your vehicle: Not only does it reduce your visibility, but it can fly off your automobile and into the windshield of the driver behind you, potentially causing an accident.
- Giving your windows time to fully dethaw: Frost impedes the driver’s visibility.
- Checking your tire pressure: Cold weather can reduce your tires air pressure and cause them to deflate which can lead to dangerous blowouts. Because pressure changes with temperature, it’s smart to check your tires on a regular basis.
3. If There’s Ice or Snow, Go Slow
The last thing you want to happen is for your vehicle to lose control on a patch of ice or snow. Therefore, it’s vital you slow down while driving in winter weather. Reducing your speed helps your vehicle account for poor traction and reduces the risk of slippage.
4. Beware of Black Ice
Black ice—not actually black but clear, which allows the black road to be seen—is especially dangerous because it can fool drivers into thinking a road is dry. However, the truth of the matter is that it’s very slippery and potentially hazardous. Black ice most often occurs on off-rams, on bridges, and in shady areas, but it can form anywhere. So, remember, always go slow.
5. Leave with Plenty of Time
As you can already probably tell from the last two tips, driving slowly during the winter is an important component of driving safely. But if you’re late getting to your destination, you may be inclined to forfeit this crucial safety measure. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination: accounting for drive time, weather conditions, and even the possibility of encountering issues such as travel rerouting.
6. Brake Easy and Earlier
Whether you have anti-lock brakes or not, winter weather conditions make it difficult to come to a complete stop quickly. You don’t want to feel the stomach-turning sensation of braking only for your vehicle to continue to lurch forward toward another driver’s bumper or even into the middle of an intersection. Brake early and slowly. And remember, the bigger the vehicle, the more time you’ll need to brake.
7. Keep a Safe Distance from Other Drivers
You can’t predict what other drivers will do. With longer time needed to properly brake, keeping a safe distance will help you avoid an accident if there’s a problem with a vehicle in front of you. Therefore, it’s highly recommended you leave extra room between yourself and your fellow drivers.
8. Be Extra Vigilant
In weather conditions where visibility is already poor, it’s key to remain as aware as possible. Reduce potential distractions and keep a keen eye on your surroundings. The faster you can spot a potential accident, the more time you’ll have to safely respond.
9. Approach Hills with Caution
When ice and snow cause traction issues, hills can be a nightmare waiting to happen. Because accelerating up a hill in winter weather can cause your wheels to spin, try gaining enough momentum beforehand to take you up the hill instead. Once you are near the top of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
10. If You Start to Slip, Don’t Panic
One of the worst things you can do if you start to slip is panic. A driver’s first kneejerk reaction is to hit the brakes or overcorrect, which only makes the slide worse and sends the vehicle into a spin. Instead, the proper way to correct a slide is to calmly turn your wheels in the direction the back of the vehicle is sliding. Click here for an in-depth video explaining how to correct a slide.
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Navigating the roads in winter weather can be nerve-wracking. But by staying prepared, driving slowly, braking early, and following the rest of these winter driving tips, you can confidently confront all of Mother Nature’s challenges this winter.