With winter approaching, driving is about to get a lot less simple for people in many areas of the country. Icy roads, blustery storms, sleet and snow can all make for hazardous driving conditions, not to mention shorter days pushing more drives into dark hours. Whether you’re a new driver facing your first winter on the road, or more experienced but looking to brush up on your winter-driving skills, there are plenty of tips and tricks to make sure you stay safe even in tough conditions. Read on to learn more about what to remember when driving in the winter.
Prepare Your Vehicle: Preparing your vehicle beforehand is one of the best ways to make sure you’re safe while driving all winter. Take your car in for a tune up before the weather sets in. Important things to check are your battery, hoses, headlights, coolant, defrost, and windshield wipers and fluid. This is also a good time to have winter tires put on to your vehicle.
Slow and Steady: Slamming suddenly on the gas or brakes can cause your vehicle to lose traction in slippery conditions. Always remember to ease on to the accelerator or the brakes, and give yourself more time to come to a stop or get up to speed. Everything takes more time in snowy conditions, so you’ll want to start braking sooner than you normally would when approaching a stop sign or red light, and make sure you have plenty of time and space before pulling out onto a busy street.
Stay Visible: Keeping your headlights on is more important than ever in dark and/or snowy conditions. Know whether or not your vehicle has daytime running lights, and if it doesn’t, turn your headlights on even during the day. Also remember that your morning and evening commutes will probably be darker than usual, so you may need to turn on your headlights or high beams, even if you haven’t been for the last few months. Another good way to stay visible? Hazard lights. If you’re caught on the road during a sudden storm, with lots of snow and limited visibility, slow down and put on your hazards. The flashing lights will alert others to your vehicle and the fact that you may be traveling below the usual speed limit in the area.
If You Slide or Skid: While it’s best to drive at a slower speed and not skid or slide, sometimes these things just happen. In the event that you end up sliding or fishtailing in your vehicle, remember these three things:
- DO NOT PANIC: if you panic and overcorrect in the opposite direction, you can send your car into an uncontrollable spin.
- DO NOT HIT THE BRAKES: if you need to slow down, simply let off the gas. Applying the brakes before you control of the vehicle will only worsen the spin.
- TURN INTO THE SLIDE: keeping your eyes on the road ahead, turn the wheel (gently) in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. As your vehicle straightens out, straighten the steering wheel along with it.
Be Smart: A flurry of snow or the remnants from an earlier storm shouldn’t keep you from going where you need to go, but it’s important to be realistic about what conditions you can safely navigate. Keep an eye on the weather not only at the moment, but also for when you’d be driving back home. Professionals with Dulles Kia remind us that there are some weather conditions that even capable all-wheel-drive vehicles just can’t handle safely. A good indicator of hazardous conditions that you probably shouldn’t drive in? School closings. If local schools are cancelling classes for the day, it’s most likely because they think conditions will be bad enough that they don’t want parents, students, or employees on the roads.