Winter driving conditions can change and become treacherous in a matter of minutes. A light drizzle of rain can turn to ice pellets that cover your windshield and the roadway. Blowing winds can cause snow drifts, blocking roadways and causing white out conditions with very poor visibility, making driving extremely hazardous.
With half the country having terrible weather and accidents happening all around, brushing up on best practices might just keep you out of an accident.
Adjusting your driving habits to winter conditions requires pre planning, but it will be well worth the effort.
1. Clean Your Windows.
If there is snow or ice covering your windows when you start out, clean them completely before moving the vehicle. Clearing just a little spot on the driver’s side of the windshield and a little spot in the rear window is not acceptable and is illegal in some states. Clean your windows completely before you start out so that you begin with clear visibility.
2. Check your tires.
Tires need traction to navigate snow and ice safely. A tire tread depth of 6/32 of an inch is recommended. You can check this for yourself by inserting a Lincoln head penny into the tire tread. If the tread reaches Lincoln’s head, you’re good to go. Worn tires are unsafe and will result in much slipping and sliding on slick roadways.
3. Utilize the defrost.
Run the defroster on the high temperature and high fan speed to continuously melt any snow and/or ice off the windshield. Run the wipers to keep the snow from accumulating and keep the windshield clear. Use the rear defroster, also.
4. Monitor Fluids.
Make sure the windshield washer reservoir is full. There’s nothing worse that having sludge and gook sprayed on your window and finding you are out of fluid. Check it often and add as needed.
5. Use Headlights.
Keeping your headlights on the increases not only your own visibility, but so that other drivers can see your car as it approaches. Slush and snow can build up on the lights and reduce their effectiveness, so be aware and clean them off when you have the option.
6. Slow and Steady.
Drive a consistent speed, no quick starting or stopping. A sudden change in speed can throw the car into a spin that you will then have to compensate for. Slow and easy is safer. Use lower gears as you navigate hills or sloping roads to give more traction.
7. Brake gently.
If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, press down with constant pressure. You’ll feel a pulsing action, which is normal. For vehicles without the anti-lock brake system, pump the brake pedal gently, then release, then pump again, and release. Repeat until the vehicle begins to regain traction.
8. Be Aware of Road Condition.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. These are great when traction is present and the wheels have something to grip. But in ice or slick snow, they offer no better increase in driving ability.
9. Handle Sliding Appropriately.
If your vehicle starts to slide, take your foot off the accelerator and relax your grip on the wheel. Over-steering can make the situation worse. If the rear wheels are sliding, steer in the direction of the slide. If the front wheels start to slide, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral to slow the slide. When traction returns, shift back to drive and steer carefully out of the area.
10. No Texting.
Don’t even think about texting while you are driving in extreme conditions. Use your cell phone for emergency calls only and keep your eyes and your attention focused on the task at hand.
In winter weather it is always best to stay home until the snow plows and salt trucks treat the roads before you go out. But if you have to drive, preparing ahead of time will help ensure a safe trip.