When winter weather makes driving challenging, the safest solution is to stay off the roads, but that’s not always possible…or perhaps you want to be out in the elements. Here are a few tips for preparing in advance for when you’re out in challenging conditions.
Pack emergency supplies. Be sure your car has a brush and scraper, a shovel, rope, a strong flashlight, blankets, a can of de-icer, kitty litter for traction, water, matches and a snack.
Keep tires properly inflated. Consider getting snow tires. A good habit all year round for fuel efficiency, but especially during the winter. Review your owner’s guide for recommended tire pressure. If your tires don’t have sufficient treads replace them. For better traction, purchase snow tires.
Have your battery checked. If your battery isn’t functioning properly and holding a full charge, it might not have enough power to start your engine in extreme cold.
Keep your gas tank at least half full. Avoid running out of gas if you’re delayed. It also helps prevent the gas line from freezing up in the cold.
Know your route and keep up on travel conditions. Know where you’re going especially if traveling a long distance. Use the internet to check on weather and road conditions i.e. www.mass511.com and other online weather and driving condition sites. Store travel hotlines in your cell phone.
Don’t overestimate your car's handling. If your vehicle has features such as anti-lock brake systems, 4-wheel drive or all wheel drive, don’t be overly confident. These features are designed to help, but they don’t take the place of common sense and caution. Traction systems won’t make a difference on ice and slick roads.
Leave extra room. Don’t tailgate other vehicles. Anticipate when coming to intersections as they are often extra slippery. Brake early and gently to give yourself enough time to react.
Slow down and drive smoothly. Cut your speed down and use a light touch as you steer, accelerate and brake. Sudden moves can send your car out of control. Avoid spinning your tires. Even in an SUV with 4-wheel drive you shouldn’t be barreling down the road for your own safety and that of others. Don’t use cruise control on wet or slippery roads.
Avoid fatigue. If you’re driving a long distance, get enough rest before hand. Be sure to pull off periodically to stretch and move about. Stay hydrated and eat to prevent fatigue.
If you get snowbound, stay in your vehicle. If you can’t dig out, stay in your vehicle and stay warm. Don’t try to walk in severe conditions. Be sure that your exhaust pipe is clear of snow and ice to avoid deadly carbon monoxide from building up in your vehicle.