Winter is by far the most dangerous time of the year to be out on the road. However, one cannot just simply stay at home for months on end, waiting for warm weather to arrive. Though the roads may be icy and the driving conditions less than stellar, luckily for us, there are more than a few ways to get to your destination safe and sound.
Though the safest strategy for winter driving is to not drive at all, in case you cannot avoid it at all, be sure to be extra prepared well before you step out on the roads. Plan ahead and proceed with caution. Check road conditions, map out routes, familiarize with the directions, gauge timelines, and leave early if there are deadlines.
When it comes to routes, a good idea is to share your preferred path and expected time of departure and arrival with at least a couple of people so that if you have an emergency, someone will know where to search for you and when.
Check the Weather
Blizzards or storms, heavy snow or high winds – check the weather reports to know the conditions outside so that you do not get caught off-guard. A majority of meteorologists issue warnings across various media channels of extreme changes in weather, especially in cases where the weather might pose a life hazard.
While a light drizzle doesn’t have much of an effect on the driving conditions in the summer, it can make roads ten times as slippery at below freezing temperatures. Blizzards, heavy snowfall, and cold snaps are the worst because they can cause visibility, along with the temperatures, to drop significantly.
Clean and Scrape
Scrape the windows, windshields, and lights to ensure clear visibility. Service and clean the batteries, change the tires, and wash the car, too. The idea is to see and be seen clearly. You have to make sure snow isn’t covering your vehicle, so that you’re visible to anyone who may be driving down the same road.
In case the windows frost up during the drive, irrespective of where you are in your journey, it’s best to find a safe place to pull over as soon as possible and clean and scrape till you’re certain there’s proper visibility.
Road delays and sudden weather turns are a possibility. Put together an emergency road trip safety kit and carry it in the boot of your car, always. We’re talking things like:
- A flashlight
- Emergency food and water
- A lighter or flint
- Booster cables
- A blanket
- Extra clothing and shoes
- A tow rope and traction mats
- A small shovel and an ice scraper
- Whistles or flares
- Power banks or rechargeable extra batteries or connectivity devices
It’s better late than never. Don’t be hasty – there’s no need to rush. Be patient, take your time, and drive slowly. Stay on the main roads and try to maintain your vehicle’s speed.
Skip the Cruise Control
Cruise controls help maintain steady speeds on long straight stretches of the road. In icy conditions, wheels can lose traction, making the car go into a spin. If you have cruise control switched on with your foot off the pedal, you will neither feel the car beginning to skid, nor you be able to stop your car from accelerating further.
Keep acceleration and deceleration in your hands, and skip the cruise control in snow, wet, or icy conditions to avoid tires from spinning too fast.
Keep Your Distance
It takes ten times longer to stop the car on snowy, icy roads. Due to the slipperiness of the roads, the tires tend to slide, making it difficult for your vehicle to come to an immediate stop.
As such, it’s important that there be some leeway for the car to surge forward even when you’ve hit the brakes. When you’re driving in the snow, be sure to leave yourself and others some distance to give a cushion when you hit the brakes.
Drivers have the most responsibility when driving in winter. The driver holds not only their own safety but also the safety of their passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers in their hands. Be cautious and alert when you’re driving – don’t lose sight or your focus while facing difficult weather conditions. Be well rested, pull over to take a break or a power nap, and don’t drink and drive.
Skid and Slide 101
Vehicle skids and slides are the worst when they catch a driver off-guard; unprepared how to handle the situation. Not all cars respond in the same way in different weather conditions, so it’s important that you’re well acquainted with its handling system and capabilities.
Learn how to handle a car skid BEFORE your car skids. Reading the owner’s manual, taking winter driving classes, or subscribing to workplace safety and compliance information resources are all fantastic ideas to ensure your safety while driving in the cold.