Driving in wintry conditions can be nerve-wracking even for the best drivers. Snow, fog, and black ice can make it hard to see and even harder to control your vehicle. But if you follow some basic tips, you’ll be more likely to keep your cool and get to your destination without mishap.
Before you hit the road
First things first: Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top condition. And don’t wait till the last minute to do this, in case mechanics find issues that need repairs or need to order in parts. Check the battery, lights, cooling system, tires, windshield wipers and defrosters to make sure everything’s working correctly.Be ready for possible emergencies. Carry a shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, jumper cables, emergency flares or markers, blankets, cell phone charger, snacks and water.
Plan your route carefully, keeping weather and construction in mind. If you’re using GPS, make sure you input your destination before you leave. And let someone know your route and what time you expect to arrive.
- Be well-rested before you go.
- Keep the gas tank at least half-full.
- Don’t use cruise control when it’s slippery due to snow, ice or rain.
- Drive slowly according to road conditions and traffic. Keep a longer following distance between you and the car ahead of you (a normal distance is three to four seconds; increase this to eight to ten).
- If you’re stuck in the snow, stay with your vehicle. Don’t try to walk in search of help. Tie a bright piece of loth to the antenna or hang a piece of cloth from the closed window to try to attract attention. It’s OK to keep the dome light on. It won’t wear down your battery and will make your car more visible. Run the heater for short periods till the car is warm, and then turn it off to save gas. Always make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of sow or ice!
- Accelerate slowly. Steer in the direction of a skid. Brake gradually with steady pressure. (If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, you might need to pump the brake pedal.)
- Stay out of the way of snow plows. Their field of vision is limited.
Always use your seat belt and make sure children are in car seats that are installed correctly. Don’t text and drive and avoid other distractions whenever possible. And never, ever drink and drive.
If playing it safe means arriving at Grandma’s a little late, so be it. Arriving safe, sound and healthy is what’s important.
AAA Minneapolis. Drive to Survive this Winter Season. https://minneapolis.aaa.com/news/drive-survive-winter-season. Accessed 9/11/18
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Winter driving tips.
American Automobile Association. Winter driving tips.