Tips for Driving in Winter Weather

The snowy weather that kids love for sledding – and getting a snow day from school – isn't so fun when you have to drive in it.

The best advice is to refrain from driving in severe winter conditions if you can. But if you can't, offers the following tips to help you reach your destination safely:

Before You Leave

  1. Winter-proof your vehicle. Carry blankets or sleeping bags and extra sets of clothes, gloves, hats, and boots. Stock your vehicle with a first aid kit, jumper cables, flashlight, shovel, scraper, and a bag of sand. Also, if you have one, fully charge your cell phone before leaving and bring a charger with you. 
  2. Clear off your vehicle. Scrape all windows, clear snow off headlights and license plates, and warm your car up for a few minutes.

On the Road

  1. Take your time. Drive slowly. Also, don't upset the flow of traffic by driving faster or slower than everyone else. 
  2. Brake and accelerate carefully. To begin stopping, tap your brakes in a slow, steady manner while allowing the wheels to keep rolling. Give yourself plenty of room. Double – or even triple – your normal stopping distance from the vehicle ahead.
  3. Be cautious. Don't pull out in front of anyone if you are not sure you can make it. Look before you turn or proceed through an intersection. Watch for shaded spots, bridges, overpasses, and intersections where ice may form first and linger after other parts of the road are clear.
  4. Navigating through a slide. Don't panic. Look where you want your vehicle to go and steer in that direction. Do not brake. Do not accelerate. 
  5. Keep to the roads well traveled. Avoid using minor roads that are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt. On highways, drive within the tire tracks in the clearest lane, away from slush and ice.

If You Become Stranded

  1. Stay calm. If the weather is extremely cold or blizzard-like, don't leave your vehicle. Turn on flashers and try calling 911 for help.
  2. Use the emergency items in your vehicle. Put on the gloves, hats, and boots. If you can, try to shovel out your car. If tires are slipping, try throwing some sand by them. 
  3. Stay warm. Run the car engine occasionally (about 10 minutes per hour) to provide heat. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow and keep the window cracked (on the side away from the wind) to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide when the engine is running.

November 2010


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