Driving is always a little dangerous—even if you’re doing everything correctly, someone else might not be and that can cause an accident that may involve you. And it seems that, as the weather gets colder, it takes more and more planning to be safe on the road.
Because of that, we’ve gathered ten solid pieces of advice for driving safely during the winter months.
1. Take precautions.
The best way to start is to be as prepared as possible for what you’re driving into—be it deep snow, ice, or a mix of both. It is always easier to lose control of your vehicle when poor road conditions are present and winter is arguably the worst season for roads in Indiana and the Midwest at large. To start off on the right foot, be sure to:
- Clear the snow and ice off your car before driving.
- Accelerate slowly.
- Reduce your overall speed.
- Allow longer braking distances.
- Keep your gas tank at least half-full at all times.
- Wear your seat belt.
- Avoid using cruise control on slick surfaces.
- Avoid using your parking break in icy, rainy, or snowy weather.
- Keep your tires properly inflated.
2. Don’t lock your wheels when braking.
Some older vehicles won’t be equipped with ABS (antilock braking system), meaning you’ll need to gently apply the brakes in a pulsing rhythm to avoid having them lock up your wheels. Inadvertently locking your wheels can make your vehicle slide or skid. If your vehicle is equipped with ABS, depress the brake pedal firmly and hold it down. You’ll feel and hear the brake shudder, but don’t lift off the brake—that’s what it’s supposed to do. That means your ABS is doing its job.
3. One thing at a time.
Trying to perform two functions on a vehicle—such as braking and turning or accelerating and turning—usually isn’t a problem. However, because it can reduce your control behind the wheel, it’s not the thing to do in bad weather conditions. When turning on a slick surface, begin breaking before you start to turn and just take everything one step at a time to maintain maximum control of your vehicle.
4. Be prepared to correct your vehicle.
If the rear of your vehicle starts sliding during a turn, don’t panic. The best way to not panic is to be ready for it to happen. If it does, gently let off your accelerator and turn your steering wheel in the direction your back end is sliding. This will help you straighten out. An electronic stability control system in your vehicle may help you with these situations, but be ready to manually correct yourself at all times.
5. Having four- or all-wheel drive doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
Four- and all-wheel drive are great for snow, but they don’t do you any good on ice. You will still slide if you’re going too fast or if you’re driving recklessly. They also only provide an advantage when accelerating—they don’t do anything for braking or cornering.
6. Never run your car in an enclosed area.
Regardless of the weather patterns, never run your car in an enclosed area (i.e. a garage). On a more winter-related note, this also applies to when the snow is deep enough to cover your exhaust pipe—if exhaust can’t escape (either in an enclosed space or because of a blocked exhaust pipe), it will get inside the vehicle instead.
7. Have an escape plan.
This sounds over-the-top, but in a general sense it’s good to be aware of your surroundings and just have some kind of plan for when something goes wrong on the road. If you need to swerve, get out of someone’s way, or avoid something in the roadway, know where you can pull over without getting hurt, damaging your vehicle, or endangering other drivers.
8. Keep essentials in your car.
It’s never a bad idea to keep a “just in case” winter survival kit to just keep in your car during the colder months. A few things you should keep handy on-the-go during winter are:
- Tealights and something to light them with. (One tealight candle can burn for up to five hours and will keep a small space—like the inside of a car, for example—at around 50 degrees until help comes.)
- Protein or snack bars.
- Windshield scraper and brush.
- Extras of necessary medications.
- A spare cell phone charger with a lighter plug adapter.
- First aid supplies.
- Extra gloves/hat/scarf.
- A couple bottles of water.
There’s more you can add to your kit (more information via the survival kit link), but these are the ones you may have already at home and can put in your car immediately.
9. Eliminate impairments and distractions as much as possible.
If at all possible, make sure you get a good night’s rest and a decent breakfast before heading out—driving fatigued is dangerous regardless of weather conditions, but when bad weather is added to that mix, it spells out trouble. It is also wise to eliminate any multitasking you might do while driving—eating, drinking, talking on your cell phone—as it only takes a few seconds of being distracted to hit a patch of ice, slide, and cause an accident.
10. Be extra cautious of other drivers.
This is a golden rule of driving, as so many accidents are due to human error in some fashion. When the weather gets bad, driving gets harder and others who are out on the road may not have taken the time to read our post—that is to say they may not be driving as carefully as you are. Stay aware and watch out for other drivers, if only so you don’t get involved in an accident as a result of someone else’s bad driving.
Stay safe this winter! And if you’ve been the victim of a car, trucking, or motorcycle accident, put a fighter on your side. Contact your local Boughter Sinak, LLC today.