8 Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Traveling in the snow can take a lot of patience, so leave early and be alert. Photo Credit: DCameraGroup.com

The Holidays are here and with the holidays come family get-togethers, holiday parties, and snow and ice.  Many of us, meaning millions of Americans, will be traveling with their families for the holidays with visions of sugar plums and presents dancing in their heads, unaware of, or unprepared for, the dangers lurking in winter driving.

It’s especially important for winter travelers to prepare their vehicles and themselves for any road trips during the cold months when snowy and freezing weather can leave you stranded or worse.

To help keep you and your loved ones safe this winter, here are a 8 tips to ensure both you and your vehicle are ready to hit the road in this winter.

Road Trip Check

Make sure your vehicle can handle the weather. Check fluids, tires, lights, wipers, heaters, defrosters and brakes, and make sure your battery is in good working order, as cold weather is extra hard on batteries. Also, if snow and ice are an issue in your area, you should considering installing winter tires.  You should also be sure to  clean, flush and put in new antifreeze. And don’t forget to have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, an especially dangerous thing to have happen during winter months when driving with windows closed.  And, talking about carbon monoxide … don’t warm up vehicles in enclosed spaces, like a garage.  Finally, be diligent about changing the oil and filter when recommended.

Check the Local Weather Reports

There are literally a gazillion apps that you can download to your phone that allow you to check the weather in any location from any location.  Knowing whether to expect clear roads or blizzard conditions can make all the difference in your planning.   If you are traveling through Colorado, check out COtrip.  It allows you to check webcams that show mountain road conditions, current weather, road work and closures.  I use it all year to check on traffic and in the winter it’s an invaluable tool!

Pack Smart

Being stranded on the roads in the winter is much more precarious situation than being stranded in the summer months.  Packing extra clothes such as boots, gloves, and a warm coat, just in case you have to hike to the nearest gas station to get help can be the difference between a good-for-you hike and a “Survivorman” trek.  Also packing extra blankets in the off-chance you have to wait, overnight, for help is very wise!  And, of course, don’t leave home without a fully charged cell phone.

Safety Kit

I never knew anyone who carried a safety kit in the back of their car until I met my husband.  His kit just sits in the back of the truck and is equipped with an ice scraper, flashlight, granola bars, water and a Rockstar Punch’d Energy Drink, wiper fluid, antifreeze, wiper fluid and two extra wipers, flares, and very basic first aid kit.  Since we’ve been married I’ve added books, children’s advil, a phone charger, and I never leave the house for a road trip in the winter without a cooler filled with treats, you know, for the kids.

Practice Driving in Adverse Conditions

This may go without saying, but the first time you have to recover from a skid ought not be on the highway going 75 mph!  Head out prior to your road trip and practice basic winter driving skills.  You should know, at the very least, how to brake safely, how to recover from a skid, and how your car handles in winter weather.  This actually can be a lot of fun, if you head out to a large empty parking lot right after a storm … just be sure to throw in some donuts at the end.

Space

Giving yourself extra reaction time by keeping a very safe distance from the vehicles in front of you is one of the most important winter driving tips.  Watch for brake lights and allow yourself even double the amount of space you normally would under typical driving conditions.

Drive Offensively

This is always a good idea, right?  To anticipate actions before they happen?  But driving offensively is imperative in winter driving conditions.  Getting enough rest the night before a road trip so you are alert and watching how the cars in front of your are reaction to road conditions can not only save you the hassle of a fender bender, but could, in all honesty, save your life!

Be Patient

When weather conditions are less than ideal, it is always wise to leave your house early to allow ample time to get to your destination.  Driving slowly gives your tires more traction on the road, thereby giving you more control over your vehicle.

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