Driving in the winter can be challenging and even dangerous. The roads can be icy, snow-covered, and slippery. Aside from the weather conditions, visibility can also be reduced by the falling snow. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when driving during the winter:
1. Slow down and allow for extra time to reach your destination
Speed is a killer, especially on winter roads. Take it slow to avoid losing control of your vehicle. The last thing you want to do is to end up in a ditch or worse. The normal stopping distance on dry pavement is doubled on icy roads, so give yourself plenty of time and space to brake.
2. Accelerate and decelerate slowly
Applying the gas too quickly can cause your wheels to spin. Ease into the accelerator to gain traction and avoid sliding. When braking, do so gently to avoid skidding. If you do start to skid, ease off the brake and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
3. Use low gears when driving down hills
Keeping in low gear when going down a hill helps you maintain control of your speed. It also prevents your brakes from getting too hot, which could cause them to fail.
4. Keep your gas tank at least half full
In case you get stranded, you’ll want to have enough fuel to keep the engine running and stay warm. It’s also a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car, including things like blankets, non-perishable food, water, a first-aid kit, and a shovel.
5. Don’t rely on cruise control
In snowy or icy conditions, it’s best to avoid using cruise control. This is because it can be difficult to regain control of the car if it starts to skid. Cruise control can also make it more difficult to brake slowly and smoothly.
6. Don’t tailgate
Tailgating, or following another car too closely, is never a good idea. But in winter weather conditions, it can be especially dangerous. This is because it takes longer to stop on slick roads, so you need to leave more room between you and the car in front of you.
7. Know how to handle a skid
If your car starts to skid, the best thing to do is to take your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want the car to go. Do not brake suddenly, as this could cause the skid to worsen. If you have antilock brakes, you can gently apply them to help regain traction.
8. Don’t travel if you don’t have to
If the weather conditions are particularly bad, it’s best to stay off the roads altogether. Trying to brave the elements is not worth risking your safety. If you absolutely must travel, make sure you let someone know your route and expected arrival time so they can check on you if necessary.
9. Be prepared
It’s always a good idea to be prepared for emergencies when traveling, but this is especially true in winter weather conditions. Make sure you have a first-aid kit, blankets, food and water in your car in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to keep a shovel and ice scraper on hand in case you need to dig yourself out of a snowbank. By being prepared, you can help ensure your safety in the event of an emergency.
10. If you get stranded, stay in your car and call for help – do not try to walk to safety
If you are stranded in your car during a winter storm, it is important to stay with your vehicle. Your car can provide shelter from the cold and will make it easier for rescuers to find you. If possible, run the engine and heater for a short time each hour to stay warm, but be sure to crack a window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure to keep your car’s gas tank full to avoid running out of fuel.
If you are unable to start your car or if it becomes unsafe to stay inside, get out and move away from the vehicle. Try to find a sheltered spot where you can wait for help. Once again, it is important to remember that it will be easier for rescuers to find you if you stay with your vehicle.
If you become stranded, stay calm and follow these tips to stay safe until help arrives. By following these tips, you can help ensure your safety – and the safety of others – on the roads this winter. Drive carefully!
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