Winter can be a scary time for driving, especially if you happen to live in a state where the powder flies and the winds blow hard. If you’re one of the lucky who gets to spend your winter basking in the sun and fun in San Diego or Miami Beach or somewhere with a similar climate, you can skip this article. But if you’re planning on sticking out the winter in the metro areas of Boston, New York, Chicago and others, we strongly recommend you read along and incorporate some of the following safe winter driving dos and don’ts into your daily repertoire of behind-the-wheel moves.
DO… keep both hands on the wheel. If you’re a chronic cell phone gabber or smart phone texter, you shouldn’t be doing either while you’re driving – even in peak weather conditions. But when it’s snowing and you’re driving, the only thing your cell phone should be doing is sitting beside you in case it’s needed for an emergency. Many road accidents can be avoided by people paying full attention to the task at hand. Winter only complicates this and makes conditions even more hazardous.
DON’T… follow the speed limit. Okay, this isn’t a license to drive like a maniac. Instead, it’s an invitation to forget about posted speed limits and only drive as fast as it’s safe to drive. If you’re cruising along a 25 m.p.h zone but your car is slip-sliding away, maybe it’s time to slow down. If you’ve got traffic piling up behind you wanting to get past, pull over and let them get by you. Winter is no time to allow peer pressure to drive faster than you’re comfortable or capable. Better to get there eventually than not at all.
DO… get your car tuned up ahead of time. And if winter’s already arrived and you still haven’t gotten your car tuned up, waste no time in getting that done. Better late than never, as they say. Getting your car tuned up ensures that it’s running in proper order, limiting the possibility that you’ll find yourself stranded when your battery doesn’t turn over in the cold weather and making sure your car performs the way it’s supposed to. Anything less, and you could be risking a major inconvenience, and quite possibly a dangerous situation.
DON’T… follow too closely behind the next car. Leave twice the normal space you’d leave for a safe following distance to account for not being able to stop in time. One of the most common mistakes people make when driving in snowy conditions is to follow too close in traffic, which leads to pileups. Don’t be the cause of a pileup. Keep your distance.
DO… check the condition of your tires regularly. If you’ve already had them checked out by your local auto mechanic, there’s probably little to worry about. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t have accidentally picked up a nail or a foreign object on the road, causing your tire to lose air or go completely flat. Give your tires a once-over before you get into your car. If any of them appear to be low in air, get yourself to a service station and have your tires pumped up or checked for leaks.
DON’T… forget to keep a winter emergency kit in your car at all times. You can either buy one from an auto parts store or you can make one yourself. Whatever method you prefer, make sure you never leave the house in wintry conditions without having that little lifesaver in your backseat or trunk. Common ingredients of a great winter emergency roadside kit includes a flashlight, road flares, a first aid kit, extra clothes, gloves, blankets, chemical hand warmers, a fully charged spare cell phone, and a small shovel to help dig you out in case you get stuck.
Nobody likes driving in winter. It’s far better to stay in and watch the flakes fall by the warmth of a fire. But often, we’ve got no choice but to get out there and trudge our way to work, or to pick up the kids, or to go about the business of our lives. The good news is, driving in winter doesn’t have to be a game of roulette. As long as you take certain precautions and use your head wisely, you should be able to weather the storm without any horror stories to tell come the spring thaw.