While walking in a winter wonderland might be something to sing about, driving in winter weather isn’t. Snow and ice prevent tires from gripping the road the same, making it harder to maneuver a vehicle.
With over 70% of the roads in the United States being in snowy regions, it is important that drivers understand how to drive safely in the winter. Here are seven tips you can use for driving in snowy or icy conditions.
1. Decrease Your Speed
The most important tip for driving in the snow or on icy roads is to drive slower.
Speed limits were set for ideal conditions, so they do not apply during bad weather. Slowing down allows a driver to have more control over their car.
If you do hit a patch of ice, driving at a slower speed gives you a better chance to control the situation rather than spin out of control or off the road.
2. Plan Ahead
Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and leave early. This will help you feel less stressed and less likely to take chances.
During driving, you can also plan ahead. Rather than focusing primarily on the car in front of you, keep an eye a short distance ahead. If the vehicles several cars up are sliding, this will give you a warning to move over, stop, or drive more carefully through that area.
If you wait until the vehicle in front of you has a problem, you won’t have enough time to react appropriately.
3. Anticipate Emergencies
Always keep some basic supplies in your car during the wintertime. This should include a first aid kit, blankets, and some extra water and food.
Don’t go too long between trips to fill up the gas tank because, during bad weather, it can take longer to get to a gas station.
Carry snow chains and tow straps in your trunk.
Also, let people know which roads you are taking and when you should arrive so if you get stuck, someone knows to look for you.
4. Leave Some Space
Driving too close to the vehicle in front is dangerous during good weather, but during bad weather, drivers should leave more space.
Temporarily losing control of the car can cause drivers to instinctively slam on the brakes, but that isn’t the right move. Instead, ease up off the gas and wait until you can control the car again. Leaving room in front of you can give you adequate space to deal with the situation.
If the driver behind you loses control, it is also nice to have a little room to move up, giving them some space too.
5. Be Seen
Make sure other drivers on the road can see your vehicle. Keep your headlights on. Even during a snowstorm, this can help others spot you.
Always use your turn signals so others see that you are slowing down to turn.
Avoid being in other drivers’ blind spots. When visibility is decreased, this spot becomes more dangerous.
Also, stay on main roads when possible. Not only are these roads better maintained during bad weather, but it also helps you be seen more easily if you slide off the road.
6. Use Four-Wheel Drive
If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, use it. These are some of the conditions it was made to handle.
Don’t make the critical error of becoming overly confident if you do have it though. Drivers should still drive cautiously, even with four-wheel drive.
Whether or not you have four-wheel drive, it is also a good idea to invest in snow tires.
7. Avoid Driving in Winter Clothing
Being bundled up is great for staying warm. Driving in these clothes can be dangerous though.
Gloves make gripping the wheel more difficult. Certain styles of winter hats can block your peripheral vision. Big boots make pushing the gas and brake pedals more difficult and harder to feel. Wearing big winter coats with a seatbelt makes it not work as well, especially for babies and children that may be in the backseat.
Driving in the winter isn’t always scary, but it helps to be prepared. If possible, avoid driving during big storms or dangerous conditions. Staying off the road is the safest thing anyone can do during really bad weather. This helps you avoid a crash or injury while also keeping the roads clearer for those who do need to go out. Stay safe this winter with these driving tips.