Staying safe on slick roads
With a coating of snow and ice, a quick trip to the store can quickly become a white-knuckle adventure. While you’d probably like to hibernate right through winter and not have to drive on bad roads, driving in snow and ice is a reality for those in winter climates. Stay safe all winter long by driving for road conditions and following these tips.
General winter driving tips
Check the weather
Knowing what the road conditions will be before you start out on your trip will help you be prepared.
Heed weather warnings
Don’t venture out during a heavy snowstorm or blizzard unless absolutely necessary. Don’t risk your safety on an errand that can wait until tomorrow.
Clean off your car
Clear all the snow and ice off your windshield and other parts of your car before driving. Take the extra time to ensure that you have a clear view of the road.
Keep a full tank of gas
If the worst happens and you get stranded in the snow, you’ll want as much gas as possible in your tank. You don’t know how long you might be stuck and will need to run your vehicle periodically for heat.
Ease up on the accelerator
Drive at a speed appropriate for road conditions. Remember, posted speed limits are for dry roads. Slow down and take it easy!
Give yourself some cushion
Increase the distance between you and other vehicles to 8-10 seconds. You’ll need this extra time if you need to make a quick stop or react to other cars.
Be aware of increased braking times
Remember that braking takes longer on snow and ice-covered roads. Take this into account especially when driving in traffic.
Avoid sudden stops
Suddenly hitting your brakes can result in you losing control of your vehicle.
Use your ABS brakes properly
if you have ABS brakes, don’t pump them. Apply steady pressure on the brake pedal; the brakes automatically do the pumping for you.
Turn off cruise control
Don’t use control in inclement weather. You need to be able to react to changing road conditions.
Don’t let 4WD and AWD give you a false sense of security
All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems are wonderful for helping you gain traction when accelerating, however they do nothing to help you brake on snow and ice. Be aware of road conditions and take the proper precautions.
Be wary of bridges
Bridges and overpasses are typically the first areas to become slick – this is where you might first notice changing road conditions.
Driving in wintry weather takes concentration - turn off the radio and put the phone down. You need your undivided attention on the road.
Tips for handling a skid
There is nothing that will get your heart racing like skidding on ice or a snow-packed road. Keep the following in mind to help you safely bring yourself out of a skid.
- Try to remain calm and level-headed
- Don’t hit your brakes or accelerator
- Steer your vehicle in the direction where you want it to go
- Don’t oversteer
- Take it easy and wait for the car to slow down - you won’t spin out when you regain control.
Practicing how to steer out of a skid is the best way to be prepared for when this happens on the road. Find an open parking lot that is icy or snow covered and practice braking and steering while skidding.
Tips for getting your car out of snow
If you find yourself stuck in snow, there are some techniques you can try before calling the tow truck.
- Dig excess snow away from your car
- Put sand or kitty litter in front and behind your drive wheels to help you gain traction.
- Rocking your car can help you gain the traction you need to get out. Put the car in the lowest gear and slowly back up, stop and then move ahead. Repeat this until you are able to pull out of the snow.
- Avoid hitting the gas too fast, you’ll spin your tires and just dig yourself deeper in the snow.
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