Driving in the winter can be a nerve-wracking experience. As if driving under normal circumstances didn’t pose enough risk, operating a vehicle while visibility is diminished and the roads are a nightmare is a very specific and difficult skill to master. Luckily, not everyone has to be an expert driver to know how to navigate winter roads safely. There are some simple and effective tips that, when taken into consideration during your winter season and each time you choose to get behind the wheel, can help take the guesswork out of winter driving preparation. Careful planning should always be implemented when departing for higher risk trips year-round, but some tools will marry the need for transportation with a much higher degree of safety. From carefully mapping your exact route to ensuring that your car is physically up to the strenuous task of driving in snowy, windy, or icy conditions, here are some expert tips to ensuring your next winter drive is as safe as it is smooth.
Plan Your Route
If you don’t know where you’re going, the chance for surprises (of the bad kind) increases exponentially. In the same way, you would make sure to ride on bike lanes and trails when mapping a cycle around your city, you should plan to avoid routes that threaten to increase the difficulty of driving in winter often inclement weather. By doing a quick Google search, or referencing an up to date map you can bypass highly congested areas, poorly serviced roads, or intersections with poor visibility. Don’t get caught in an area that you don’t know, or on a hill that you won’t be able to get up. With a little foresight, winter driving can be a much less stressful event. Hot tip: always take other potential drivers into account when measuring the risks of an area. Your own skills and preparedness are paramount as a responsible driver, but you should always assume that other vehicles and drivers are going to struggle!
Service Your Car
No matter how new your vehicle is, one thing that can never be skipped or hurried is car maintenance. Even a much older car can be safe to drive in the winter- if the necessary precautions are taken. In order to ensure safety on rough or slippery terrain, you must familiarize yourself with all of your car’s safety features. This will not only help when it comes to informing how you go about correcting a skid or braking on ice, but it will also influence how you treat your vehicle. When it comes time for your routine car check-up, you will know exactly what features your car offers and how they should be working. This is particularly important in the winter when you’re relying on your car to be operating at its full capacity to arrive at your destination safely.
Calling anyone and everyone who will listen: winter tires are your best safety measure against the majority of winter driving hazards! Standard or all-season tires are not equipped with the correct tread to tackle winter roads. There’s just no getting around it, the best thing you can do for yourself and your vehicle to prepare for snow, ice, sleet, and whatever else the season throws at you is investing in a good set of season-specific wheels. The added traction and grip will get you ready for winter with a tangible advantage in all sorts of conditions. Simply put, there is no substitute for winter tires when aiming to battle the elements and the roads as safely and securely as possible.
Fluid and Fuel
Virtually all drivers who make frequent highway trips can tell you their fair share of traffic jam horror stories. Very unpleasant experiences to be sure- they can be downright dangerous in the winter if you are not adequately equipped. The simple acts of filling up windshield wiper fluid and topping up on gas may seem like no brainers, but if these things are neglected they can have life-threatening consequences. Windshield wipers are the only defense you have between oncoming weather and blowing particles and your eye line, or how clearly you’re able to view the road. If they stop working or run out of fluid in crunch time, you will literally be driving blind. That’s why it’s important to ensure that both your wipers and gas tank are working flawlessly and full of fluid before any winter departure. If you think a half tank of gas will get you home, think again. Account for traffic or roadside emergencies and always fill up when you can. Plus if you get stuck in freezing conditions, a half tank of gas could buy you up to 12 more hours of heat.
Pack a Winter Emergency Kit
Lastly, but certainly not least, packing the essentials for a winter drive is of the utmost importance. Including all of the tools for surviving an accident, quick car repair, or freezing night outdoors is as practical as it is easy. A couple of extra sweaters and scarves don’t take up a lot of room in your vehicle, but they will help immeasurably when out in sub-zero temperatures. First aid kits and tools will also come in handy in a wide variety of circumstances. As the old adage goes: prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Put your mind and your nerves at ease by packing essential items in the trunk or back seat of your car. You can leave the emergency kit there all winter, and even if you don’t have to use them- you’ll have them in the event of a crisis.
When you think you know everything there is to know about a subject, that’s usually when you find out how woefully wrong you are. However, winter driving safety is something that you can easily get better acquainted with and incorporate into your usual routines. By taking a little extra time and being methodical and meticulous in your planning, you can reduce the danger significantly. Invest in the right equipment, plan ahead of time, and do your due diligence when it comes to car maintenance and you will be driving safer than ever before.