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Ways to Drive Safely in Winter

Car in winter

According to the US Department of Transportation, there are over 5,891,000 million vehicle crashes annually and about 21% are weather-related. Driving during winter is as dangerous as driving during heavy rainfall. The safest thing to do is to stay at home. To drive safely, it's important to take all the necessary precautions to get to your destination in one piece. 

When it comes to a winter drive, safety should be a top priority. It's recommended for drivers to reduce their speed to half the required speed limit. Why? Because of the reduced tire traction, it may not be that easy to complete a safe stop. This is why drivers are also advised to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them — at least 3 vehicles away. If you are driving long distances, it's best to always prepare for the trip to make the journey as safe as possible. 

Winterizing Your Vehicle

Preparation is key to ensure the utmost safety of your travel. Before your scheduled long drive in winter, do make sure that your vehicle can withstand winter conditions on the road. It's best to get a maintenance service to avoid car problems during your trip. 

Keep in mind that you may have to change routes due to stormy weather so it's important that your gas tank is full. Check your car's battery and see whether it's working efficiently. Fully charge it or replace it when necessary. Also, consider getting winter tires especially when you are traveling long distances. That will reduce your chances of having tire problems during your trip.

The tips below should help you how to drive in winter safely:

  1. Install winter wipers with rubbers so ice does not buildup on the blades. Keep in mind though that your wiper motor will be working harder as this type of wipers are heavier than the regular wipers.
  2. Check the defroster for your rear-windows if it's in working order so you can see what's behind you. Carefully clean the windows and make sure they are free of debris.
  3. Check the vehicle's brakes, hoses, belts, wires, cables and spark plugs to ensure that they are still in good working order. If you get a winter service for your vehicle, a technician should be able to help you with this.
  4. Buy a wiper fluid suitable for extreme weather conditions and make sure they are replaced often.
  5. Know what to do in an emergency especially when you are stuck in a winter storm. Put on the lights and do not leave your car. Turn on your car only when you need to stay warm and turn it off again.
  6. Pack a safety winter kit before a long drive. A few items you need include a first aid kit, flashlight with batteries, flares, matches, non-perishable food, extra warm clothing, cellphone and charger, a toolkit and cables.

Before your trip, check the weather conditions so you can adjust routes, if ever. Also, always take your time. Avoid rushing so you do not drive fast. So long as you plan your trip well and make all the preparations needed, driving in the winter should be safer. 

Staying Alert And In Control

Traveling in a car in winter

Keep in mind that there is no safe speed range when driving on slippery roads. As much as possible, always be cautious and be alert at all times. To stay in control, adjust your speed according to the weather conditions. If the roads are slippery, slow down. 

Always start slowly and test the brakes and your steering control. Gently pump the brakes and avoid quick movements of your steering wheel when stopping. Always maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you to be on the safe side. Keep alert and watch for danger ahead or any slippery spots. Also, make it a point to never use cruise control when driving as you may not be able to detect your loss of traction and it might be too late to recover.

You can stay safe while driving during winter so long as you are focused and you do not get distracted. If you want to make a phone call, consider stopping. As much as possible, avoid distractions while driving especially when it's the weather is extremely bad. 

Avoiding Winter Skids

When you make a sudden stop, your vehicle may skid. It's a hazardous winter roadway condition that must be avoided. Wheelspin — where the tires spin faster than expected — is one of the most common skids. To recover from this, just take the foot off the gas for the tires to regain traction. You can also do a test at home before hitting the road. Hit your gas before leaving and find out how likely the tires spin on the road. 

Wheel Lockup is another skid that should be avoided. This is when you take a sudden brake and the wheels just stop spinning but the car is moving. You won't experience this if your vehicle has an anti-lock brake system. If it doesn't, simply take your foot off the brakes and wait until the wheels start to move. When it does, hit the brakes again and do it slowly. 

What to do in an Oversteer or when your car slides sideways is to take your foot off the brakes on front-wheel cars and off the gas on rear-wheel cars. Look ahead, slightly steer in the direction you want to go, release your brakes and then accelerate to stop the tires from sliding sideways. When you keep gaining speed and the vehicle swings back and forth, take your foot off the gas or brakes and slightly steer in your preferred direction. You should be able to gain back control with slight steering. 

To avoid hazardous conditions when winter driving, always drive slowly and keep your eyes on the road. 

Helpful Tips on How to Drive in the Winter

Keeping your car in top condition is one of the keys to safe winter driving as it lessen accidents on the road. The tips below should help you drive safely during winter. 

  1. Watch out for slippery roads or danger ahead and be prepared for it. Drive slowly and do not make sudden movements of your steering wheel when stopping. Gently hit the brakes to have more control of your vehicle.
  2. Speeding may get you to your destination fast but it's definitely not advisable during winter. Drive carefully to avoid accidents on snowy roads. Slow driving also gives you more time to recover when you encounter a road problem.
  3. Consider driving with the headlights on even when driving during the day. Freezing winters may reduce visibility and you can stay safe with the lights on.
  4. Do not overestimate the ability of your car to withstand extreme weather conditions. Stay on the safe side by making sure all the components of your vehicle still work. If you are in doubt, contact a technician.
  5. You can recover from skids so long as you concentrate on the direction you want to go, not on where your vehicle is going. Skidding can be managed so do not panic. You can take control of your vehicle so long as you drive carefully.
  6. Use your vehicle's anti-lock brakes to recover from a skid. Simply push the brake pedal and the system allows you to maneuver the vehicle while it's slowing down.
  7. Consider getting snow tires or winter tires for your vehicle. They can give you more traction on snowy and icy roads. It can also give you more confidence in driving during winter.
  8. If you get caught in a bad storm, check for weather reports to help you change your routes. It would be best for you to either wait for the storm to pass or find another route. Do not try to brave the storm to stay safe.
  9. Place your car in a low gear as that will help you have lower speed while driving. That would also reduce the chances of a skid.
  10. Stay attentive while driving during winter. When you focus on driving, you can avoid sudden brakes and your vehicle won't spin out of control.
  11. Always stay connected when you are driving long distances. Inform family members where you are going and what routes you are taking. When you get stuck in the snow, stay warm using extra warm clothes to conserve fuel.

Stay at Home During Winter

The best way to avoid winter accidents on the road is to stay at home and not drive. If your appointment or errand can wait for another way, it's best to completely avoid driving in the winter. 

If you are thinking of buying a car for a long trip in the winter, contact us to ensure that you bought a safe vehicle and you have all the technical data needed to help you make an informed decision.


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