Snowy Driving Tips: How to Navigate Winter Roads Safely
The condition of the weather at this time of the year, which sees roads covered with slippery ice and snow, can challenge even the most experienced driver. Slippery road conditions make your car more difficult to control, changes the time you have to respond to hazards, and reduce the amount of traction your tires have.
Before braving the extreme weather, make sure to be knowledgeable of the precautions so you can arrive at your destination safely. Here are some snowy driving tips you need to remember before driving in winter conditions.
To maintain control on icy or snowy roads, the key is to slow down. Turning, stopping, and accelerating all take longer to do and can be very unpredictable when the road is wet or slippery, but a lot of drivers still underestimate how long it can take to brake. To stay in control, you’d want to increase that time, so forget cruise control and slow down if you’re sliding.
To maintain traction, accelerate slowly enough and make enough room to slow down when you reach intersections or corners with traffic lights. You should also take note that overpasses and bridges freeze faster before roadways do, so always give yourself enough time to go slow.
Know your brakes
Before anti-lock brakes were invented, traditional braking systems allowed the brakes to lock and stop the wheels from turning. However, this only resulted in skidding and loosening the grip of the tires when trying to maneuver or stop. So drivers needed to pump the pedal as gently as they can to regain control and traction.
Modern cars work differently. If an incident is about to take place, you only need to stomp on the pedal as hard as you can and the car will slow down. As each individual brake is pulsed, the pedal will vibrate, providing stability and traction to make maneuvers easier to do.
Given cars react more slowly in ice and snow, your following distance should be longer than normal. Let’s say you’d normally go for 3 to 4 seconds; in the winter, stay 8 to 10 seconds instead. You’ll need at least twice the distance when it’s above freezing to keep you enough time to gain control of your car.
According to experts, you should learn how to drive as smoothly as you can in the winter, almost as if you don’t have brakes at all. This should give you enough practice to anticipate the moment where you’ll have to brake suddenly. If all else fails, you can always try and search for a “Jiffy Lube near me.” Go ahead and have your brakes checked.
Have your tires changed
Your tires contribute a lot when it comes driving in the snow; they should keep your car connected to the road firmly. If the suddenly loose grip, you’ll lose all control of your car. And don’t think that your all-season tires will do all the work for you. Winters are challenging, and your tires might not be prepared for that.
If you live in an area where there’s going to be a lot of snow and the winters are long, consider swapping your old tires for winter tires. Also called snow tires, these tires have more flexible rubber materials that work well in the snow and even in dry seasons.
Before heavy snow sets in, consider getting a set of tire chains that fit your drive wheels for better traction. Often, you’ll notice tire chains in areas where long winters are frequent, such as in alpine areas.
Remember that snow and ice and reduce the amount of pressure in your tires, so a blowout on the road may happen, leaving you stranded. Before the start of the snow season, you should have already gone to check your tire pressure. To find the recommended pressure on your tires, check the door pillow behind the driver’s seat or refer to your owners manual.
Always be prepared for the worst
Not all people will agree to do this, but it’s best to just avoid getting behind the wheel when the weather is bad, especially if your trip is not urgent anyway. Check on weather reports and never be too confident with your driving skills.
If you really need to head out and drive in the snow, be prepared. Get your gas tank full or at least half full in case you get stranded and there’s not a gas station nearby. Store a supply kit in your car as well. It should have an extra phone charger or a power bank, reflective tape, gloves, blankets, water, and non-perishable food. Sometimes, it might be a good idea to bring a shovel, just in case.
Before the start of the winter season, check if there’s a “Jiffy Lube near me” and get a good checkup. Your car should be winterized first before anything else. Have your wipers checked, as well as your defroster, headlights, and antifreeze.
If you need to travel far, let your friends and family know where you’re heading and what route you’re taking. If you fail to check in, they’ll know where to find you and send help. This might be all too much, but being extra is essential for this season rather than not minding the weather conditions at all.
Check the exhaust
Checking your exhaust pipe should be done regularly and not just during winter. But extreme weather conditions could put you in a much bigger risk of danger if you fail to check the exhaust. Check for signs of road debris, ice, or snow, before firing up the engine, as this may cause carbon monoxide to develop in your compartment, which we all know is fatal.
If you have to extract your car from a snowy ditch, don’t forget to check the tailpipe for snow. If your engine is one while you’re waiting for help, always leave a window open. That being said, know what the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are and let everybody in the car know so you can watch out for each other.
Snow and ice can damage your exhaust, so ensure that it’s always checked out and have it fixed if you notice strange noises or exhaust starts to appear in areas where it shouldn’t be.
Always be visible
The winter can reduce visibility, so it’s crucial to always be seen in order to be safe. One of the snowy driving tips that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) put emphasis on is the power of good headlights.
Headlights are one of the basic parts of a car, but they play an important role in avoiding crashes. That’s why you should always check the performance of your headlights before heading out. Half of vehicular accidents happen at night, at dawn, or dusk, so having a good set of lights is critical in order to help drivers see trouble as soon as the can.
You may want to invest in adaptive headlights that can light up sharp bends before the start of the season, or today if you haven’t had yet. Make sure your headlights are always clean and always pay attention to road signs. This should add to your safety in the winter.