A snow-filled winter storm can be a scary time for driving, especially for the upcoming storm planned for this weekend - Feb 8, 2013. If you’re one of the lucky who gets out of Dodge and heads South, good for you. But if you’re planning on sticking around, we strongly recommend you read along and incorporate some of the following winter driving tips into your daily repertoire of behind-the-wheel moves.
Drive with both hands on the wheel. If you’re a chronic cell phone gabber or smart phone texter, you shouldn’t be doing either while you’re driving – even in peak weather conditions. But when it’s snowing and you’re driving, the only thing your cell phone should be doing is sitting beside you in case it’s needed for an emergency. Many road accidents can be avoided by people paying full attention to the task at hand. Winter only complicates this and makes conditions even more hazardous.
Keep your headlights on. Whether you are driving during the day or not, keep you lights on to increase visibility for other drivers. Some vehicles are equipped with an “auto light” feature turning on headlights if the windshield wipers are in motion or at low ambient light. In any event, turn the light switch to the “on” position.
Ignore speed limits. Okay, this isn’t a license to drive like a maniac. Instead, it’s an invitation to forget about posted speed limits and only drive as fast as it’s safe to drive. If you’re cruising along a 25 m.p.h zone but your car is slip-sliding away, maybe it’s time to slow down. And btw, do not use cruise control over icy roads. If you’ve got traffic piling up behind you wanting to get past, pull over and let them get by you. Winter is no time to allow peer pressure to drive faster than you’re comfortable or capable. Better to get there eventually than not at all.
Drive at a decreased speed and brake gently. Leave twice the normal space you’d leave for a safe following distance to account for not being able to stop in time. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes (referred to as ABS), gently tap your brakes when coming to a stop to avoid skidding, otherwise gently apply steady pressure to your brakes. In the case of having ABS, you will feel the pedal pulsating as the brakes are applied. One of the most common mistakes people make when driving in snowy conditions is to follow too close in traffic, which leads to pileups. If your brakes do lock up, ease off on the brake.
Check the condition of your tires. If you’ve already had them checked out by your local auto mechanic, there’s probably little to worry about. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t have accidentally picked up a nail or a foreign object on the road, causing your tire to lose air or go completely flat. Give your tires a once-over before you get into your car. If any of them appear to be low in air, get yourself to a service station and have your tires pumped up or checked for leaks.
Keep a winter emergency kit in your car at all times. You can either buy one from an auto parts store or you can make one yourself. Whatever method you prefer, make sure you never leave the house in wintry conditions without having that little lifesaver in your backseat or trunk. Common ingredients of a great winter emergency roadside kit includes a flashlight, road flares, a first aid kit, extra clothes, gloves, blankets, chemical hand warmers, a fully charged spare cell phone, and a small shovel to help dig you out in case you get stuck.
Nobody likes driving in winter. It’s far better to stay in and watch the flakes fall by the warmth of a fire. But often, we’ve got no choice but to get out there and trudge our way to work, or to pick up the kids, or to go about the business of our lives. The good news is, driving in winter doesn’t have to be a game of roulette. As long as you take certain precautions and use your head wisely, you should be able to weather the storm without any horror stories to tell come the spring thaw.
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