The annual Ice Age is back, and the usual commute is now an even more hazardous trip through a myriad of winter hazards. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to make winter driving quite a bit safer for you and your passengers.
Have the right equipment
You wouldn’t try and open a can with the TV remote, right? So why are you trying to drive on winter roads with your summer tires?
- Winter tires are most effective below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The compound in winter tread is designed to be soft in freezing temps, providing more grip. This is completely unlike a summer tire, which becomes hard and loses grip outside summer temps. Think it doesn’t make much of a difference? Think again. A recent post on Jalopnik proved a rear-wheel drive car with winter tires will vastly out perform an all-wheel drive car on summers.
- Fresh wiper blades and windshield washer fluid will keep the outside world visible. Make sure you buy the blue de-icing fluid, as the yellow summer kind will instantly freeze this time of year.
- A solid battery is a must for a harsh winter. Help it out by using a battery tender or trickle charger when parked overnight. A block heater is another good investment, as it will make cold starts a lot easier, and provide instant cabin warmth.
Have the right mindset
Ever notice how after a heavy snowstorm, most of the vehicles stuck in the ditch/median are SUVs and full size trucks? Confidence in your abilities is great, right up until you get in over your head. This is a different environment, so drive differently.
- Slow down, and increase your following distance. This may seem obvious to some, but it needs to be said. Snow and ice reduce traction, and increase stopping distances. By traveling slower, and/or keeping more distance from a vehicle ahead of you, even in slippery conditions you should be able to stop safely.
- Minimize distractions an pay attention to the road. Sure, you want to hear the school closures, or catch up with your carpool buddy, but you need to focus. Specifically, follow the tracks already driven through fresh snow. Avoid snow drifts and iced over puddles. Watch for black ice – it looks like dark, glossy asphalt – and stay calm if you drive over it. Keep the wheel steady, ease off the accelerator, and don’t touch the brakes.
Have a backup plan
No one is a perfect driver all the time, and they’re called “accidents” for a reason. Pack for a 24-hour unexpected stay on the side of the road. By being prepared, you can successfully manage any winter emergency.
- Stay warm. Have a thick blanket in the back seat, or a space-saving reflective emergency blanket.
- A USB charger and cord is always handy for charging a cell phone.
- Keep a bit of non-perishable food and liquid in your vehicle. Just in case your unexpected stay in your vehicle lasts more than a few hours.
And if you dont want to use your vehicle you can always store it during the winter months.Tags: winter driving