Winter driving means more hazardous roadways and requires more attentive drivers. Here are our top tips and reminders to get you and your loved ones safely to your destination, whether it’s just to work or a few states away.
Mistake 1: Relying on 4 wheel drive on an icy road
Sometimes, when a car is equipped with features especially designed for bad weather, drivers get a false sense of security and forget to take proper precautionary measures. While 4-wheel drive offers better traction than front- or rear-wheel drive on wet and snowy roads, don’t get too confident. Remember to be careful no matter what kind of tires you’re sporting.
Mistake 2: Slamming on your brakes and over-correcting when you start to slide
Often to avoid a bad situation – such as a collision –we automatically slam on our brakes. In some situations, that can be the best course of action. However, when slipping on ice, this will only hurt the situation. If you find that your car is slipping, it’s best to turn your wheel gently in the direction you want to go and lightly step on the brake. Think about it this way: when you’re walking on an icy patch of sidewalk, you slow down your pace and make deliberate movements. When you hit an icy patch of road, do the same thing with your car.
The alternative–slamming on the gas–is another way that many drivers use to correct a winter driving mistake. If your car becomes stuck in a snow bank, don’t slam on the gas. This will only dig a deeper hole. Turn your wheels left and right to try to push the snow away and gently hit the gas to test if you have traction.
Mistake 3: Getting out of the car when stranded
If you do end up stranded on the side of the road during the winter, the driest, warmest, safest place you can be is most likely going to be in your car, so it is usually best to stay there. Obviously, if your car is stuck in the middle of the road, you should carefully find a way to get out to avoid getting hurt in a possible collision.
If you are stuck, find those trusty road flares you keep in your emergency kit. Place them about fifty feet in front of and behind the car. Make sure that your exhaust pipe is clear, and turn on your car for ten minutes every hour to keep warm. Turn on your hazard lights and lift the hood (as long as it is not snowing or raining) so people can tell you need help.
Mistake 4: Following others too closely
Even in perfect weather, it’s important to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. But this rule becomes critical in nasty winter weather. When roads seem pretty clear and we’ve been driving without an issue for a little while, we can get too comfortable and start driving like the roads are normal. But one patch of ice or mushy snow piled up, and there suddenly isn’t enough room to slow down or maneuver out of a collision. Be particularly careful on high speed roads and going down hills.
Mistake 5: Doing more than one thing at a time
Remember those slow, deliberate movements we mentioned earlier? Well, this is similar. When it’s a sunny summer day, we might turn and brake at the same time and have no issue. But on bad roads, that can be asking too much of your car. Slow down, then make the turn. Do the same for acceleration.
Now if you don’t want to ask your car to multitask, don’t ask the same thing of yourself. Distracted driving can be very dangerous. Don’t fiddle with the radio, change your navigation device or use handheld phones. This is troublesome any time, but especially dangerous on slippery winter roads.
Mistake 6: Driving on back roads
Roads get cleared based on their size and use; so small back roads won’t get cleared very quickly if at all. Because these roads are not as frequently traveled, if you do get stuck, you may have longer to wait for help. If you have to go out in bad weather, try to stick to main roads if you can and avoid the back roads as much as possible.
Mistake 7: Not getting the car ready for winter
Even if you are someone who checks their tire pressure and changes their oil on time every time, you should still take the car to your mechanic to make sure it’s really ready for winter weather. And don’t forget the safety kit with blankets, water, food, road salt, flares, first aid kit and a travel phone charger.
Stay safe and warm out there.