Driving in the midwest is typically a pretty easy thing to do. You can get from point A to point B without having to put too much thought into how you are going to get there and how long it may take you. This can be said for three seasons of the year, once winter arrives, most things about your commute need to be taken into consideration. Are the roads plowed and safe? Do I need to leave early in anticipation of delays? Will I need to get new or winter tires?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, over 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions, of which, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur in snowy conditions. A major cause of these accidents is the reduction in visibility, snow and ice covered roads, and ill-prepared drivers. Besides avoiding bad road conditions in general, there are many steps you can take to become a safe winter driver.
Decrease your Vehicle Speed
Planning your commute before you are on the road is one of the most important aspects of safe driving during the winter months. By knowing how long your commute will take, you allow yourself to leave early if needed so that you can slow down and maintain an appropriate vehicle speed. The speed limit may say 60 MPH, but in difficult driving conditions slow down and go at a speed that is safe for you and others on the road. Remember to stay calm and be alert.
Create Space Between you and the Car in Front
By reducing your vehicle speed, it will also allow you to have more time to react to any problems or accidents. It is recommended that you keep at least three car lengths, or three to five seconds, between you and the vehicle in front of you. During winter months, six to eight seconds is the preferred time between vehicles. This will give you a better chance to safely decelerate your vehicle rather than slamming on the brakes and losing traction. Using cruise control while driving in snow is not recommended as it can quickly lead to delayed reactions that can result in an accident.
Clear your Windows of Snow and Ice
Not only are snow and ice covered windows dangerous for you, you are also putting other drivers on the road in danger of potential accidents. Make sure to completely defrost your front and back windshields before driving in the winter and clear all the windows of the remaining snow and ice. Wait until it is completely melted before driving as frost can significantly reduce your visibility on the road.
Create a Winter Emergency Kit
If it comes to being stranded on the road in your vehicle, it is crucial to have an emergency kit ready to use. Warm clothes like gloves, a winter hat, and a blanket will help keep you warm until help arrives. To help get yourself back on the road, a shovel and safety absorbent or cat litter can help you get the traction needed to get your vehicle moving again. Always carry a pair of jumper cables in case a motorist is able to stop and help you, never depend on another motorist having the jumper cables. First aid kits should include the essentials like bandages and tape as well as any spare medication you take. Other items in your emergency kit can include a phone charger, tool kit, flashlight, lighter, and a notepad with pen.
Make Sure your Car is Serviced and Ready
Having your vehicle winter-ready is one of the few things you can control while driving in the unpredictable winter weather. It’s important to have your car checked to make sure you are up to date with brakes and fluids and that you have recently had your oil changed. Always try to have at least half a tank of gas in your vehicle, it’s best to avoid a near empty tank of gas on the unpredictable roads, especially on longer trips. Tire pressure fluctuates as the temperature rises and falls, be sure that all tires are properly inflated and no leaks are present.
Driving during the winter can be nerve racking and uncomfortable at times, it’s best to take it slow and control what you can control. Be prepared before you hit the road with a serviced vehicle, emergency kit, and clear of any snow and ice on the windows. Once on the road, take it slow and be aware of your surroundings. It’s more important that you safely got to your destination than being stuck on the road on a cold winter day.
What other tips do you have for safe driving during the winter? Let us know in the comments below.
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