Winter is upon us, which means that there are things that we need to be aware of that might not be as big an issue at other times of the year. For example, be wary of carbon monoxide fumes that could be deadly. Also, your driving habits need to change when the roads are snowy or icy.
The first and foremost change you should make when the weather is wintry is to drive slowly. If the roads are wet or icy, you should leave at least three times more space than usual between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Because you’re going to need to go more slowly than usual, that also means that you need to allow extra time to get to your destination so that you’re not rushing. Along these same lines, it’s a good idea to follow these tips for driving in snowy or icy conditions:
- Accelerate slowly. This avoids spinning tires. If you’re approaching a hill or other incline, try to gather inertia rather than applying extra gas. Reduce speed while cresting the hill, but if you stop altogether, it could be hard to get moving again.
- Stay in a low gear. This will increase your traction on a slope or hill. Be aware that it could be extra icy on a bridge, overpassed, or less-traveled road. Even if the temperature is above freezing, there could still be wet spots that are frozen.
- Know if you have anti-lock brakes. Many cars on the road today have four-wheel anti-lock brakes (or ABS), so the correct way to brake on slippery roads is to use firm and continuous pressure on the brake as you steer — but don’t pump your brakes. If you have a vehicle that does not have ABS, then pumping the brakes is still the best way to control the vehicle during a skid. If you feel the car begin to skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral. When the wheels skid sideways, then they will slow the vehicle and begin to regain traction. At that point, you can steer in the direction you want to go. Once you’re back on course, you can put the transmission back in drive and gently accelerate.
Help! My car is stuck in the snow!
If you get stuck in snow, don’t panic. Panicking or spinning your wheels will only make the situation worse. Instead, try this:
- Gently wiggle your wheels from side to side to see if you can push some snow out of their way.
- If you don’t have access to a shovel, use your feet or other tool to clear as much snow as possible out from around the wheels or beneath the undercarriage of the car.
- It’s a good idea to keep a bag of sand, kitty litter or gravel in your car in case you do get stuck. If you can put some down, it will help your tires to get traction.
- If all else fails, rock the vehicle slowly from forward to reverse. The process will have to be gradual, with gentle touches to the gas until the car is free.
Winter safety tips BEFORE you head out
Before you head out, make sure that your vehicle is in good working order. Verify that all of your routine maintenance is up to date. You want to know that your fluids (like antifreeze, oil, and windshield cleaner) are at the levels they should be, and that your battery, exhaust system, ignition system, lights, brakes, defroster and thermostat are functioning properly. Especially if you’ll be doing long-distance traveling, you need to ensure that your car is in good working order so that you won’t be stranded along the way.
Remember, the best ways to safe on the roads in winter is to use common sense, use caution and slow down!