While the sight of snow can be beautiful, driving in it is a whole different matter. With winter weather comes snowy and icy conditions that can make driving difficult and, in some cases, even hazardous.
For drivers in areas prone to getting snow and ice, especially if they’re unaccustomed to winter weather, it is crucial to be well-prepared and knowledgeable about winter driving safety. When you get behind the wheel in chilly weather, whether you’re new to snowy weather driving or a seasoned expert of many winter drives, you can keep yourself safe and sound when navigating around snow, ice, and even black ice by staying mindful and present.
This winter, drive with confidence–and caution–by keeping these key winter driving tips in mind when you get behind the wheel.
Make Sure Your Vehicle Is Winter-Ready
One of the very first things you should consider at the very start of the snowy season is how ready your car is for the weather. In some areas, basic maintenance might be enough to prep your car for the upcoming cold, but if you’re planning on driving through severely snowy weather, you may need some more in-depth preparation.
Here are a few things to put on your checklist when winterizing your car:
- Inspect your tires: Ensure your tires have adequate tread depth and are properly inflated. Consider using winter tires, which offer better traction on snowy and icy surfaces.
- Check your battery: Cold weather can put additional strain on your car battery. Make sure it is in good condition and fully charged.
- Keep your windshield clear: Replace worn-out wiper blades and use a winter-grade windshield washer fluid that won’t freeze in cold temperatures.
- Maintain visibility: Clear all snow and ice from your windows, mirrors, and lights before setting off.
Adapt Your Driving Habits For The Snow
It’s not just your car that you’ll want to adjust for winter. You likely have some set driving habits that you lean into all year long, but those might not work as well when navigating snow and ice.
By adapting your driving habits to winter conditions, you’ll be able to be safe and maintain control of your vehicle, even in the most dismal weather. Keep these best practices in mind when you get behind the wheel:
- Slow down: Reduce your speed and give yourself extra time to react to potential hazards on the road.
- Increase following distance: Leave a greater distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. This extended space allows for longer stopping distances on slippery surfaces.
- Avoid sudden movements: Accelerate, brake, and steer gently to maintain traction and prevent skidding.
- Brake carefully: When braking on snowy or icy roads, apply steady pressure rather than slamming on the brakes. If your car has ABS (anti-lock braking system), press down firmly and maintain pressure.
Navigating Around Icy Roads, Snowy Conditions, and Black Ice
Snow, ice, and black ice are common hazards during winter, and not treating them with the respect they need can lead to devastating consequences. However, they’re not something you should fear.
Be aware of road conditions whenever you drive in winter weather, and be sure you’re able to identify potential hazards you could encounter on the street knowing how to identify and navigate them is essential:
- Snow: Reduce your speed and increase following distance when driving on snowy roads. Be aware of reduced traction and avoid sudden maneuvers.
- Ice: Look out for glossy, smooth surfaces on the road, as they may indicate the presence of ice. Approach these areas with caution, and remember that ice is often hidden in shaded or less-traveled areas.
- Black ice: Black ice is a thin, transparent layer of ice that can be particularly dangerous. It blends with the road surface, making it difficult to spot. Drive slowly and be cautious, especially on bridges, overpasses, and areas with high shade.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
While careful driving can mitigate a lot of the risk of driving in winter weather, there’s always the potential for something to go wrong. By being prepared for the unexpected, you can keep yourself safe and secure even in the worst case scenario.
It’s always good to have a plan for emergencies on the road, but make sure your winter plans take into account the cold and other wintery conditions you could face. Here are a few things you can do to be prepared for a winter emergency:
- Carry an emergency kit: Equip your vehicle with supplies such as a flashlight, blankets, extra clothing, non-perishable food, water, a first aid kit, and a shovel.
- Notify someone of your travel plans: Inform a family member or friend of your route and estimated arrival time.
- Keep a charged mobile phone: Ensure you have a reliable communication device in case of emergencies.
- Stay updated on weather conditions: Check weather forecasts and road condition reports before heading out. If conditions are severe, consider delaying your trip if possible.
Driving in winter may need extra caution, but it’s not something you need to be afraid of. By properly preparing your vehicle and your own habits, you can be ready for anything the weather throws at you. And, of course, if the weather’s ever too bad to drive, there’s no shame in putting off driving until conditions are better.
Remember, it is ALWAYS better to take it slow and steady and arrive late than it is to never arrive at all. Be aware of winter hazards, and enjoy the beauty of winter…safely.