Winter Driving – Or, How to Stay Safe on the Road
Global warming? How about record-breaking cold and snow?! Right now, while the entire eastern US is gripped by snow and winter storms, it’s a good time to review what we know about winter driving… even if you’ve been doing it for quite some time.
Wintertime is upon us in full force and the roads are hazardous. Whether you are a young driver who has never driven in bad weather, or you are a seasoned driver who has relocated to an area and have no idea how to safely navigate the snow, we are here to help. Here is a compilation of advice from our members who drive and play in the coldest, snowiest, and often most dangerous parts of the country for winter driving. We hope these tips will help to ease your fears and make you a better winter driver.
Number 1 – If you are scared to get out on the road, STAY HOME. If you get out onto the road and you get scared and panic, you could end up causing an accident and hurting yourself or someone else. Listen to the weather reports. If they are calling for snow, make arrangements. If you need transportation to/from work, ask for a ride from a co-worker or a family member. Offer up some gas money for their time. Don’t be afraid / ashamed / or embarrassed to admit you do not like to drive in the snow – better to be honest than to end up hurt.
Number 2 – Slow Down. You should not drive the same speed on snow and ice as you would when the roads are dry. While this may seem like common sense, each year we see people driving well over the speed limit, so it bears repeating. Braking distance and reaction distance are both compromised in inclement weather. Give plenty of extra space between yourself and the car in front of you. Do not slam on the brakes or on the throttle. If your brakes lock or if your tires are spinning, you can’t effectively control your car. (However, it is important to note that you should maintain momentum when driving up an incline. If you go too slow, there’s a chance you will never make it up the hill.)
Number 3 – FWD, RWD, AWD or 4WD? There has always been a great debate among drivers as to which is better for winter driving. I had several members offer me feedback and their opinions are as varied as their locations. Our Canadian member says he sees better results out of FWD with snow tires, our Maryland member likes AWD, our Indiana member swears by RWD. Everyone agrees that 4WD will not prevent an accident or keep you any safer than the other options. This is a separate article in itself, but know this: No matter which ‘drive’ configuration your car is, NONE of them improve braking ability. You have to allow plenty of room between yourself and the person in front of you.
Number 4 – Snow Tires. These are a MUST, especially if you live in an area that is prone to inclement weather. There really is no good excuse for not having them because if the weather gets bad enough, you WILL get stuck without them. Regardless of what the companies advertise, all season tires are not the best choice for driving in really poor conditions. This comes from real experience, not from a marketing company. It can truly make the difference between making it home and being stuck on the side of the road.
Number 5 – Remove Snow and Clean the Glass. Before you take off down the highway, brush the snow off of your car. Big chunks of snow flying off your car at high speeds can be a hazard to those driving behind you (and is actually illegal in some states). It also impairs your ability to see everything around you. You can not see well enough through a circle the size of your hand that you cleaned off the windshield. Clear it ALL off your car. Also, keep the glass clean. As salt is kicked up off the road onto your windshield, it coats the glass with a nasty film that you can’t see out of once it dries. Part with $5 and go to the car wash. Rain-X your windshield repeatedly during the summer and you’ll be glad in the winter!
Number 6 – Turn off the radio. You should listen to your car, not music. The tires will give off different noises when you are traveling on ice, slush, or on good asphalt. Learn to recognize the difference and react accordingly.
Number 7 – STAY OFF THE PHONE!!! Don’t text, don’t talk to your girlfriend, don’t check your e-mail. Eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel. Why tempt fate?
Number 8 – Practice driving in a parking lot. Find an abandoned parking lot and find your car’s limits – Cornering, braking, acceleration. Find out what it can do and what it can’t do. Once you figure that out, if you get into a panic situation out on the roadway, you will have a better grasp of what to do in a split second. Also, take a winter driving course. There are several different companies that offer this type of training. If driving in these conditions is a necessity, it might be very well worth any cost to learn how to do it well.
Number 9 – Please drive with your lights on. Low visibility means you can not see OR be seen. Also, have some consideration for other drivers on the road, don’t drive with your high beams on. It can lead to an accident because the oncoming driver can be temporarily blinded. Your ebay HID’s aren’t quite as cool as you think they are.
Number 10 – Join AAA. A free tow is just a phone call away. (If you are stranded on the side of the road or stuck in a snow drift, THIS would be the time to use your phone!)
Number 11 – Yield to faster traffic. If you are intimidated by the weather, but still insist on driving, please yield to faster traffic. No shame in pulling over and letting everyone that is in a hurry be on their way. If you are one of these people, please stay to the right, or better still, stay off the freeway. It is not the place for you to be. You will either get hurt or hurt someone else- Pretty much a guarantee.
Number 12 – Tailgating. While it seems self-explanatory, and it was touched on in the topics above, it needs its own entry. This is so important. You can not tailgate someone and have the ability to stop suddenly and effectively on snow or ice. It’s just not possible. Give everyone plenty of breathing room. No one wants to go to the hospital to get a cast put on a broken leg or to the impound yard to retrieve their car.
Number 13 – Keep the gas tank full. If the fuel level in your car drops too low, there is a risk of condensation within the lines and they can freeze. Keeping the gas tank at least half full is an easy way to prevent that from happening.
Number 14 – Inform people of your whereabouts, especially if you are driving into blizzard conditions. While it’s doesn’t make your trip any safer, at least let someone know where you are. If you don’t show up as expected, they’ll know where to come search for you.
Number 15 – Last, but not least, here is a list of supplies to keep in your car:
– a sheet of cardboard, to help you get traction to the drive wheels in case you get stuck
– kitty litter (for traction)
– heavy-duty tow straps
– jumper cables
– bottled water
– snow chains
Many thanks to our members all across the country, and in Canada, who contributed to the helpful information in this thread.
Becky (nissangirl74) is a Tennessee native and accomplished winter driver, transplanted to Arizona, who never has to scrape another windshield…
Comments? Discussion? Suggestions? Other helpful tips we may have missed? Let’s hear them! Click the following link: Top 15 Winter Driving Tips!