Winter weather can make driving dangerous, but taking the proper precautions can help you avoid problems on the road. Here are a few tips for driving safely during the winter.
Vehicle maintenance is a year-round job, and it's one that can impact your safety—especially during the winter. If you're planning on being on the road this winter, make sure your vehicle can handle the trip. Some aspects of your car are especially important during the colder months, so remember to check your:
Maintaining your vehicle doesn't just mean keeping it running. Check each of these components regularly so you know when you're due for a fix. Rather than making patchwork repairs that will hold through the winter, replace and upgrade any aspects of your vehicle that routinely give you problems.
Unfortunately, you probably can't wait out the winter in your house. If you go out and end up stranded in your car, you'll be happy you packed all the right supplies.
Flashlight: A flashlight will be crucial if you need to change a tire or make any adjustments to your car in the dark.
Brush and Scraper: The winter elements tend to compromise visibility. Keep your windshield and windows clear of ice and snow so you can see traffic and pedestrians.
Blankets: If you're trapped for an extended period of time and you can't keep the heat on, use blankets to keep yourself warm.
Food and Water: In an extreme situation where you're completely isolated, survival is paramount. Pack food and water in your emergency kit so you're prepared for dire circumstances.
Flares: When you're isolated, you'll want to be able to get the attention of someone who can help you. Flares are an effective means of pointing out where you are and attracting aid.
Jumper Cables: A dead car battery is an inconvenience at best, and it can be a nightmare if you're stuck in the cold. If you forgot to turn your lights off when you last got out of your car, you could have trouble getting the vehicle running again. Keep jumper cables in the trunk so the next good Samaritan that passes can help you get back on the road.
Phone Charger: You can do just about anything on your phone these days, so be sure to keep a mobile charger on you. If you have reception, an emergency can be resolved quickly.
Cruising around with your son or daughter playing co-pilot is a fun way to spend time together, but it's best to put kids in the back seat during the winter. Although airbags save lives, they can be dangerous for children. If you have a rear-facing car seat for your baby, never put it in front of an airbag.
Running out of gas during the winter is a problem in itself, but even being low on gas can be an issue when it's cold out. Keeping your gas tank at least half full at all times prevents air from coming in through the fuel pump so you can keep the heat running.
When weather conditions aren't ideal, you want to put more space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Slowing down gives you more time to react to the world around you, reducing the chances of a car accident. Drive even more carefully than normal, and be extra vigilant of the other vehicles on the road.
Driving slowly also helps you maintain your traction when the roads are icy. When driving at normal speed, you might hit a patch of ice and skid forward; if you're moving slowly and deliberately, skidding shouldn't be such an issue.
Speaking of skidding, many people handle traction problems the wrong way. Resist the instinct to slam on the brakes if you start losing control. Instead, pump the brakes so you can regain traction.
As handy as it can be under normal weather conditions, cruise control might not be the best option when it comes to winter driving. Even though you're driving carefully, you can't control the roads or the other drivers using them. This means you need to be ready to react and adapt at all times, which is the opposite of the "cruise control" mentality.
Winter weather makes for unsafe driving conditions, and that means accidents are bound to happen. That's why it's extra important to have insurance during the winter. If you do end up in an accident, insurance can help you make repairs.
You can't control the weather and you can't control other drivers, but you can practice safe winter driving to reduce the risk of accidents. Keep your vehicle in shape, keep emergency supplies in the car, and stay safe on the wintery roads.