Driving safely through the winter requires not only skill behind the wheel, but some preparation before you head out onto the road. With some preparedness, attentiveness, and patience, you’ll be able navigate through treacherous winter driving conditions, and make it to your destination safely.
What to do before you head out
Proper maintenance and monitoring of your car throughout the winter can help you make it through the nasty winter weather. Before the worst wintry weather strikes, make sure that your car has enough antifreeze and windshield washer fluid. Don’t skimp on the washer fluid and replace it with water, which will freeze either on the windshield or inside your car. It’s also a good idea to test your battery so that you won’t be searching for a boost in an empty parking lot on a frigid night.
While you may not think they’re essential in the winter, it’s important to keep a pair of sunglasses in your car. Snow and ice can magnify the glare of the sun and make it very difficult to see clearly.
Pack an emergency kit inside your car as well. That kit should contain a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, water, warm clothes, and a blanket. In the event you find yourself stranded during a storm, you’ll have some necessities to help you endure until help arrives. And while most people rarely leave the house without their cell phones, do remember to bring your phone with you when heading out into difficult road conditions.
Keep your distance
Tailgating is a bad idea on any given day, but it becomes even more dangerous in winter. It takes your car a longer distance to stop on snow or ice because your tires (even if they are winter tires) will lose some traction. If the vehicle in front of you stops unexpectedly, you won’t have enough space to avoid colliding into it.
Traffic jams are common in the winter, when snow and ice clog up major arterial roads. But even when traffic is crawling along, keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. If that car stops abruptly and you react instinctively by slamming on the brakes, you could slide right into it. Even small accidents are worth avoiding, especially when the snow is falling.
Take it easy
It’s mind-boggling that some drivers treat a slick winter road as if it’s bare and dry on a summery day. Winter driving requires you to slow down, no matter what kind of vehicle you drive. Speeding on a slippery surface makes it harder to steer or stop safely.
Keeping your speed in check is important, but it’s just as important to avoid making sharp turns, stomping on the accelerator, or slamming on the brakes. Sudden changes in speed or movement can cause you car to skid out of control.
When in doubt, don’t drive
If the weather outside is indeed frightful, just keep your car, and yourself, at home. If you don’t absolutely have to be on the road during a storm or when the roads are already slippery and snow-covered, there’s no shame in not traveling.
If you’re already out on the roads and conditions worsen, find a safe spot to pull over and wait out the worst of the weather. When conditions improve, or you feel comfortable driving again, you can get back on your way. It’s always better to arrive late than never at all.