Winter driving tips

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car tire on snowy road
Winter is a dangerous time to drive; be sure to stay safe on snowy roads with these winter driving tips
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Stay safe this winter.

Driving in winter conditions can be a stressful and dangerous event. Here are a few winter driving tips to help you stay safe.

Prepare Your Car

The first step in protecting yourself while driving in the winter is to equip your car with safety items necessary in case of an emergency. Make sure to have a first aid kit, a map, an ice scraper, snowbrush, matches, candles, flashlight, blanket, flares, tow and battery jumping cables, folding shovel, a cell phone, extra windshield fluid and even an emergency help sign to place in the back window when traveling in winter months. This may seem like a lot of equipment to have in your trunk, but if the unthinkable happens and you find yourself in the ditch in the cold weather, you'll be glad you were prepared.

Before Driving

  • In the fall, before the snow falls, have your mechanic give your car a checkup to make sure that everything is in proper working order. If you skipped this step back in September or October, take care of it now!

  • Install snow tires for better traction.

  • Check the gas gage every time you drive. Making sure you have enough gas should be a concern in any weather but it becomes especially important in the cold. Running out of gas when the mercury dips can be a life-threatening situation since the engine will be your only source of heat. (Catution: In order to avoid inhaling excess fumes when you need to use the engine for heat, be sure to keep the window open a crack while the engine is idling.)

    Keeping your fuel tank full in the winter is important not only for your safety but for the condition of your vehicle. Warmer daytime temperatures can cause the empty spaces in the tank to fill with moisture, which will condense as the temperature falls in the night. This water will sink to the bottom and will eventually rust your tank.

  • Add gas line anti-freeze to the fuel tank when refueling in extremely cold temperatures.

  • Check the windshield washer fluid. Driving in winter weather often involves slushy, wet conditions and you will need plenty of washer fluid to clean the residue. In addition, make sure your wipers are in good shape and able to perform effectively.

  • Check the local forecast for weather conditions and avoid driving if heavy snow or freezing rain is expected.

  • Make sure your car, lights and windshield are free from any snow or ice so that no debris flies up over the car, startling you or causing damage to you or anyone driving nearby. Clearing off the snow will also ensure that other drivers can see your signals and that your lights illuminate properly. To ensure visibility, make sure that the windshield is entirely clear. Use a scraper to remove the ice from the entire sheet of glass, not just a small peephole.

      While Driving

    • Buckle up. This is a safety precaution that should be heeded in any time of year.

    • Go slow. Speeding is the most common cause of accidents in any type of weather and it becomes especially difficult to control a car that is going too fast in winter conditions. Consider leaving a few minutes early to give you plenty of time to reach your destination.

    • Keep at a safe distance from other cars. If traffic slows or comes to a stop, you will need ample time to slow your car, especially in slippery conditions.

    • Do not use cruise control. If your tires slip, this mechanism will cause your car to accelerate and you will lose control of the car.

    • Do not use your high beams when it is snowing. It causes the light to reflect off the falling snow and limits visibility.

    • Do not pass snowplows or sanders unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would treat emergency response vehicles.

    • In especially bad weather, stay home. If you must travel, do not go alone. If weather becomes especially nasty, turn on your four way flashers, get off the road and stay in a hotel if you must.

    • Be aware of other drivers. No matter how carefully you may be driving, there will always be someone who is not exercising as much caution. Watch out your rear window for cars that may not be able to stop and are in danger of rear-ending you.

    • Do everything slowly and carefully. Accelerate slowly and turn carefully and most importantly, brake gently. If you find yourself sliding, pump your brakes and gently turn the wheel to help your tires find traction.

      Following the above winter driving tips will help you stay safe on the road this winter season.

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