7 Winter Driving Safety Tips
Winter is here, which means travel conditions aren’t always ideal. There’s snow and ice and whatever in-between combination Mother Nature decides to send our way.
Driving in the winter can be hazardous, but keep these tips in mind for safe travel in the cold weather all season long.
Keep an Eye on Your Tire Tread
Whether you're setting off on a road trip or simply driving to your local airport, it's crucial that your tires have good tread. Check your tires periodically throughout the season to make sure the tread isn’t worn or damaged.
An easy penny test can help you determine if they're up to par: Simply insert a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head facing down. If the tread is low enough to expose the top of his head, then you need a new tire. Tires can wear unevenly, so be sure to repeat the test in several places.
Check Your Battery
That one extra cold morning when the car won't start always seems to fall on a day when there's someplace important to be! Take preventative action and make sure your battery is ready for the cold weather. You can test it yourself or you can stop by your local auto repair and they’ll be happy to give it a look. It only takes a few minutes of your time and it will ensure your car starts up without issue in the cold weather.
Get the Right Tires for Where You Live
All-season tires can become brittle in extremely cold temperatures. If you live where the temperature drops below 40 degrees on a regular basis, you should consider investing in winter tires.
Think of all-season tires like a candy bar: That tasty bit of caramel and chocolate is soft when it sits on your counter, but put it in the freezer and it snaps into pieces. Instead, winter tires have rubber compounds designed to remain flexible when it’s cold, so they grip better and keep you from sliding.
Make Sure You Can See and Be Seen
You'll need powerful windshield wipers and plenty of washer fluid to clear the buildup of snow, ice, and road dirt that collects during winter travel. A good habit is to check the washer fluid level each time you fill up on gas. Be sure to also check your wiper blades periodically, and before big trips, to make sure they aren't damaged. If your windshield wipers leave streaks on your windows, then it’s time to get them replaced.
Lights are also important so that can you see where you're going, and so that others can anticipate your movements. Make sure all of your lights are working properly, including turn signals and brake lights. This is especially important during the winter when visibility is reduced and for those early morning flights when you’re heading to the airport before dawn.
Always Clear Your Car of Snow Completely
Don’t be that person driving down the road with a small circle cleared on an otherwise completely snow-covered windshield. Even if it's a short trip, clear your car of snow completely from top to bottom. This includes the windows, hood, trunk, lights, and even the roof. Leaving snow on your vehicle is not only a risk to your safety, but to the safety of the other drivers on the road.
Keep Winter Essentials in Your Trunk
Make sure you’re ready to face the elements and pack some cold weather safety gear in your trunk. You should always have a warm coat, hat, gloves, and winter boots, even if you’re not wearing them while you drive. If you’re flying, be prepared in case of winter weather when you return.
Other essentials for winter travel include jumper cables, a flashlight, ice scrapers, and a tow strap. If there's a chance you’ll park in an uncovered lot, consider leaving a shovel in your trunk. A small, folding shovel should do the trick for most cases.
Slow Down and Leave Extra Time
This may seem obvious, but it's worth repeating. No matter how good your tires, your all-wheel drive or your driving skills, you still need to slow down in the winter. Lower your speed in bad conditions and give the person in front of you extra space so you have room to maneuver.
Be sure you also leave extra time to get to your destination, especially if the weather has left road conditions particularly hazardous. Departing early is much less stressful than worrying about going too slow to make it to your destination on time.
Whether you're simply driving to work or taking a road trip to the mountains, you'll want to take extra precautions before you leave this winter. These simple tips will help you prepare, so you’re ready for whatever wintery mix Mother Nature might have in store.