Driving on ice and snow can be very challenging and dangerous. Adapting to these conditions is key to remaining safe. Making use of the following safety tips will guide you in becoming a safer and more efficient driver when the conditions are adverse.
PREPARING YOUR VEHICLE
Prepare your vehicle in the fall for the coming winter months by performing a complete vehicle checkup. If you are not capable of checking the vehicle yourself have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle for you.
- Battery - Cold weather starts require a battery that is fully charged. Have your battery checked and replaced if necessary.
- Ignition - Damaged ignitions, distributor caps or worn spark plugs can make starting difficult or cause a sudden breakdown.
- Lights - Make sure your lights and lenses are working and clean. Dirt can reduce visibility by as much as 90%.
- Brakes - It is important to be able to stop your vehicle; have your brakes checked and do not delay needed repairs.
- Tires - Keep your tires properly inflated and in good condition. Select the proper tires according to the region you live.
- Exhaust - The exhaust reduces noise and distributes the carbon monoxide and gases of the vehicle. Have your mechanic check for leaks.
- Windshield Wipers - If streaking replace wiper blades. Keep washer reservoir full. Free the blades of ice and snow before starting.
- Winter Safety Kit - Purchase or put together a Winter Safety Kit and keep it in your vehicle at all times.
Drivers must also be prepared in advance. When driving in winter conditions it is best to wear clothing that provides warmth, comfort and freedom of movement. Once your vehicle is warm inside remove your outside jackets and gloves. You will want them if you need to exit the vehicle to make repairs or for any reason at all. Always wear your seat belt and make sure your passengers are as well! Keep sunglasses in the vehicle to reduce glare when necessary. Adjust climate controls as necessary.
WINTER DRIVING STRATEGIES
Before getting on the road make sure that all snow and ice is cleared off of the vehicle. This will help you with visibility and also make it easier for other drivers to see you. Start your vehicle and let it warm up before driving. This gives the engine time to adjust and gets the interior to a comfortable temperature. This assists the defroster when needed.
Avoid driving when visibility is poor but if you must drive put your headlights on low beam, keep your speed low and do not hesitate to pull over to a safe place as soon as possible if conditions become dangerous.
When following other vehicles on snow or ice keep a distance between vehicles of 8 to 10 seconds. This provides the additional distance necessary if you need to come to a complete stop.
When on a four lane highway, drive in the lane that is the most clear of snow and ice. Avoid switching lanes and driving over built up snow between the lanes which can be dangerous and cause loss of control.
If your vehicle tires start to spin let up on the accelerator until the traction returns. Do not use cruise control on any slippery surfaces (ice, snow, sand).
When approaching hills it is best to keep your momentum and avoid using your breaks. Stay far enough behind vehicles ahead so that you can keep your pace and even increase your speed within reason. Once over the hill reduce your speed and proceed very slowly. Minimize brake use going down hill to avoid loss of control. If braking is necessary gentle, slow brake pumping will help.
If your vehicle begins to skid, continue to look at your path of travel, where you want the vehicle to go. Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go. Avoid hard braking this will only further upset the vehicles balance and make it harder to gain control. When the rear wheels stop skidding continue to steer to avoid a rear wheel skid in the opposite direction.
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