During the wintertime, you may find yourself driving past miles of picturesque winter scenes. Yet underneath the snow, disaster can await you during winter driving. Slippery ice combined with heavy snowfall can make you lose control on the road while being unable to see what is happening. If you’re not fully prepared to face off with winter at the wheel, an everyday drive can quickly turn disastrous.
1. Keep your headlights on
Your car’s headlights should stay on, even when there is little precipitation. Headlights can greatly increase your visibility on road when there is sleet, snow, or hail. Doing so is vital, because visibility is of utmost importance no matter the outside conditions.
2. Drive slower than the speed limit
You may often find yourself driving a bit faster than the posted speed limit in good weather. However, those speed limit signs apply to optimal conditions only. They don’t account for precarious conditions such as rain, snow, or ice. It is important to drive under the posted speed limit, especially in icy conditions. Driving at a faster speed can increase the potential of an accident caused by slipping on the ice.
3. Keep your gas tank close to full at all times
Even in winter, you may have to embark on long drives. Such drives may put you far from any cities or gas stations. An empty tank of gas is especially hazardous on winter roads. There are less potential drivers to come help you, and it will take a while for towing services or friends to drive out to you. Fill up your tank with every chance you get. Additionally, keep some extra gas cans in your car.
4. Store emergency winter supplies in your car
Emergency winter supplies can spare you much time, money, and effort, even when you are close to civilization. Include car supplies such as booster cables, an extra car battery, and tools for performing emergency maintenance. You should also include personal supplies such as heavy clothing, hats, winter boots, and warm blankets. For the most extreme cases, keep extra water and non-perishable food on hand in the case you find yourself stranded for long periods of time. Additionally keep your cell phone charged and bring a backup battery for it.
5. Get your car serviced before winter
Breakdowns and other issues may not seem like a big deal in good weather, but even simple tasks are a pain in cold icy weather. It’s better to get your car worked on beforehand than to spend hours in the cold on the side of a highway fixing a minor issue that could have been prevented. Check every system in your car, such as the ignition, belts, fluids, brakes, exhaust, tire pressure, oil, defroster and heat systems, lights, batteries, and antifreeze.
6. Brake properly
Braking too little or too much and/or too hard or soft can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. On the snow or the ice, it takes more time and distance to stop than normal. It also takes more time to pick up momentum and inertia, so stopping suddenly can be hazardous for other drivers, who like you can’t stop quickly.
7. Be careful on bridges
The weather affects certain parts of the road more so than others. This is particularly evident on bridges, which freeze much faster since cold air flows both over and under them. Even if the rest of the road is not slippery, bridges may already have ice forming on them.
8. Know your vehicle
If you drive a typical 4×4 vehicle, don’t become overconfident. Know the limits of your vehicle. The heavier your vehicle, the more caution you must exercise. If you’re carrying a heavy load, have multiple passengers, or just have a large car, you must be cautious of your car’s performance.
9. Don’t use cruise control
The road may sometimes look clear, however that is often not the case. Sometimes roads may have slippery patches that can cause you to lose control when you tap on your breaks. There is a high chance of hydroplaning due to loss of friction over slick surfaces. When the driver is using cruise control, they lose the ability to feel the road conditions that they gain from manually controlling the vehicle. Therefore, by the time the driver notices slippery conditions, they may find out they are much worse than originally thought after disengaging cruise control.
10. Know the road conditions
Drive around your block prior to hitting the road. Additionally, know who reports on the local road conditions. You can contact local road and news companies, who will gladly give you info on the road conditions, and will also tell you if they are safe to drive on or not.