Driving Tips for a Safe Winter
by DC Gabe Balsamo in General
When cold weather hits Connecticut, driving can get a little difficult. Icy and snowy conditions often make it much more difficult to stay safe on the road. Fortunately, there are several things you can make unfavorable conditions manageable.
Prepare for the Season
Ideally, staying safe on the road during winter starts before the cold weather really kicks in. Take your car to a trusted mechanic to get a tune-up and to check for any issues that could become more problematic once the cold sets in. One of the simplest ways to avoid breaking down in the snow is getting ahead of any mechanical problems before they start.
However, even the most well-tuned car can wind up having trouble in bad conditions. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you have an emergency preparedness kit in your car all season long. Make sure you have the basics, such as warm blankets and road flares to keep you and your passengers safe and warm. It’s also a good idea to have plenty of water and simple snacks in case you’re stuck for a while before help arrives. A useful inclusion many don’t consider: a good pair of waterproof, insulated gaiters. This way, should you break down in less-than-ideal footwear, your feet and lower legs will stay protected from the elements.
Consider the Car
Often, our cars have features such as anti-lock brakes that we forget about when conditions are good. At the start of the season, remind yourself of your car’s winter-ready features (or lack thereof) so you know how to handle slick and icy roads. It’s especially important to consider these things in an unfamiliar vehicle, as you may have to overcome instinct and consciously remind yourself to drive differently.
One of the most effective ways to ensure you’re driving safely in risky conditions is to plan ahead. Take some time to consider several routes to your regular destinations, and consider which ones feature the fewest hills, sharp turns, or other potential hazards.
Build extra time into your morning routine to check the weather, warm up the car, and scrape off any accumulated snow or ice. This is absolutely vital for driving safely. Not only does cleaning your car give you the visibility you need, but it also keeps other drivers on the road safe, too. Loose snow billowing off of your roof can create dangerous blind spots for the cars behind you. Worse, chunks of ice falling from your car can cause serious, life-threatening accidents.
Take Your Time
One of the easiest things you can do to keep yourself safe on the road is slowing down. Accelerate slowly, decelerate slowly, increase following distance — developing patience during winter travels will go a long way toward keeping you and your passengers safe. It’s important to remember that winter weather requires you to react sooner since slick roads can compromise your ability to maneuver. If you’re going too fast, your reaction speed may not keep up.
One notable exception to this — if you’re going up a hill, it’s time to go. Traveling up a hill in snowy conditions is notoriously difficult, and the more momentum you have when you hit the bottom, the more likely you are to make it to the top. Don’t drive recklessly, and don’t go over the speed limit, but don’t approach the hill timidly, either. By the same token, do not slow down while ascending if you can avoid it. If you lose momentum, your odds of stopping — or worse, sliding back down — go up significantly.
Finally, the safest way to drive in the winter is not at all. Whenever you can manage it, simply stay home. If you know bad weather is coming, stock up on pantry goods and other staples. Try to work from home if you can, and decline invites to social outings while it’s icy out. Pay attention to snow emergency declarations, and never drive when it’s declared unsafe.
Driving in the winter calls for extra care. Navigating snowy or icy roads can be tricky, but with forethought and caution, you can make your winter driving as safe as possible.
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