Winter storms often bring hazardous road conditions and increase the likelihood of car accidents. You can never be too prepared for driving in winter conditions! Here are some tips to help you prevent accidents and stay safe this winter.
In Your Trunk
Blanket – If you find yourself stuck or your car breaks down, an extra blanket can keep you warm.
Jumper Cables – These are a good idea to have on hand no matter what time of year it is. Not only for your own car, but someone else may need a jumpstart.
Shovel – A shovel will be much more effective than your hands if you need to dig your car out of a snowbank.
Flashlight – You will be thankful that you have one of these on hand if you ever get stuck at night.
Other items – You should always have a cell phone, spare tire, snow brush, water, and a some non-perishable food items in your vehicle.
Maintain your Vehicle
It is very important to maintain your vehicle, to ensure that it will handle properly in icy conditions, and to prevent a breakdown. Use this checklist to keep your vehicle ready for winter weather:
- Check your battery – Cold weather is hard on car batteries, so making sure you have enough power to start your car is a must. You can either take your car in to an expert, or you can do it at home using a voltmeter.
- Check tire tread – As the roads get icy, having good tires will help prevent sliding or getting stuck in deep snow. You can use a coin to test your tire tread.
- Antifreeze – It’s a good idea to regularly check antifreeze/coolant levels in your vehicle. Doing so will help prevent engine damage.
- Tune-ups – It’s also not a bad idea to have your vehicle inspected by an auto-shop regularly to make sure that everything is functioning properly, especially if you are preparing for a road trip.
Practice Makes Perfect
You may consider yourself a skilled driver, but ice and snow drastically change even simple maneuvers. It’s a great idea to practice turning, slowing down, and accelerating on ice and snow. Practicing will hep you understand how your car handles in hazardous conditions, and will also increase your comfort levels.
Plan Your Route
Especially if you are planning a long road trip, make sure you are prepared. Check the weather beforehand, and give yourself plenty of time (preferably daylight hours) to get there. Remember that it often takes considerably longer to drive in winter conditions. Make sure to let someone know when you are leaving, the route you plan to take, and an estimated arrival time. That way if you get stuck or your car breaks down someone will know.
Stopped or Stalled?
Make sure that you you know what to do if your car breaks down, or you get stuck.
- Stay in the car
- Call for help.
- Shine dome light – If visibility is low, this can help other cars to see you.
- Don’t overexert – You will want to conserve your energy, and let your body focus on keeping you warm.
- Clear exhaust pipe – With your car running, you will want to prevent any carbon dioxide from coming back into the vehicle.
- If you are low on gas, try not to continuously run your heat. Use your blanket to stay warm if needed.
Keep a good distance – In icy conditions it will take longer to stop. Make sure you aren’t following cars too closely, to prevent an accident.
Always wear your seatbelt!
Avoid fatigue – Make sure you are rested before driving, and rotate drivers if needed.
Increase visibility – Clear all snow and ice off of your vehicle prior to driving.
Half a tank or more – Try and stay on top of your fuel levels during the winter months. This will ensure that you have a source of heat if your car breaks down or you get stuck.
Avoid cruise control – In snowy or icy conditions cruise control should be turned off. You will want as much control over your vehicle as possible.
Drive with your headlights on.