Nothing quite brings out the panic in people than driving in hazardous winter weather. But you can ease those winter jitters by following the Boy Scout motto – Be Prepared.
And just how do you do that? By practicing safe driving techniques and having your vehicle ready for the worst that Ol’ Man Winter throws at you. Let’s start by reviewing good driving habits during nasty weather.
- Use caution when traveling over bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, since they freeze first.
- Slow down and leave yourself plenty of room to stop if it’s snowing or icy. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the vehicle in front of you, or reduce your speed by 50 percent.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your vehicle starts to skid, steer it gently in the direction you want the front to go and don’t touch the brakes. And ease off the brakes if the wheels start to lock up.
- If you’re stuck, don’t run the engine constantly. Experts suggest running it no more than 10 minutes every hour.
- Be aware of “black ice,” which can develop even if temperatures are above freezing. It’s particularly prevalent in shady areas and on bridges.
Now that you have a handle on how to drive during inclement weather, let’s look at getting your vehicle ready for what’s inevitably ahead:
- Have the battery checked to ensure it can withstand cold weather.
- Inspect headlights, tail lights, and interior lights and replace any faulty bulbs.
- Clear your vehicle completely of ice and snow before heading out on the road. This includes headlights and rear lights and side mirrors.
- Don’t let the gas tank fall below half full to prevent fuel lines from freezing up and avoid damage to the fuel pump. The extra weight will also provide for more stability.
- Make sure the windshield wipers are in good working order and that the wiper fluid reservoir is filled with fluid that can withstand below-freezing temperatures.
- Keep tires properly inflated and check that they have adequate tread.
- Turn on your headlights during inclement weather.
- Clean your shoes of ice and snow before entering your vehicle to avoid melting and creating moisture build-up that could fog up the windows. If fogging occurs, run the air conditioner for a few minutes, since this will function as a dehumidifier, or turn off the air recirculation switch to draw in fresh, drier air.
- Pack a travel safety kit that includes blankets, flashlight, flares, jumper cables, a portable shovel, first aid kit, water, snacks such as dried fruit and nuts, an ice scraper and brush, cat litter (for use as a traction aid), wooden stick matches or lighter, candle, and a lock de-icer. Other items that should be part of the kit are coats, scarves, boots, gloves, and a sleeping bag; and a tow rope or chain that can be used if you’re stuck in a ditch and a tow truck isn’t readily available.
- If you need to drive in wintry weather, check first that your cell phone battery is fully charged and that you have an operational car charger or backup portable charger in your vehicle.
At this time of year, don’t take any chances. Be prepared.