The weather has been so mild in certain parts of the country this winter that safe winter driving might not be front of mind for many drivers. However, we all know that sooner or later those of us who live in certain parts of the country will be navigating ice and snow. While the best advice is often to try and avoid driving in ice and snow altogether, this isn't always possible. If you think you'll be driving in ice or snow this winter, follow these tips to reduce your risk of being in a weather-related accident:
- Make sure your car has the right tires. Talk to your mechanic about whether all-weather, snow, or studded tires make the most sense.
- Make sure those tires are properly inflated. In cold weather, tire pressure can dip due to constricting air in your tires. Tires that are underinflated tires can be slower to respond in the event that you have to slam on the brakes.
- If you don't know how your car handles in the snow or ice, practice in a large, snowy or icy parking lot before hitting the road.
- Decrease your speed in ice and snow, and allow for a greater distance between you and the car in front of you. Three car lengths is a good rule of thumb.
- Depress brakes gently. If your wheels lock up or you begin to skid, take your foot of the brake.
- Use a low gear to increase traction, especially when going up or down hills.
- Remember that bridges and less traveled roads freeze faster than typical roads, and drive accordingly.
- When snow causes poor visibility, turn your vehicle's lights on to make yourself more visible to other drivers.
- Make sure that your windshield wipers are clear of any obstructions such as ice. It can be disastrous if you are caught in a sudden snow storm and find yourself unable to clear your windshield because your wipers are frozen to your car.
- Don't be overconfident when driving four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles. Follow the safety rules above, and drive carefully.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car. In the event that you are stranded on a highway, or even worse - a desolated road, you should have an emergency kit that contains a blanket, some flares, and an extra, fully charged battery for your cell-phone.
- Make sure that you always have at least a half tank of gas in your car. There may be an instance where you will need to run the motor in order to generate heat to stay warm.
- If you have an electric or hybrid vehicle, make sure that your car's battery is fully charged. Cold weather can affect the charge that batteries hold and how quickly they recharge. Know how your car's battery performs in cold conditions.
About the Author Robert Measer knows a thing or two about driving in winter conditions. A lifelong resident of Buffalo, NY, Robert is a WNY Realtor with HUNT Real Estate.