Car Safety Tips for Winter Driving

by : Michael Murray

With ice, sleet, snow, and poor visibility, maneuvering a car in the wintertime can pose a mighty dilemma for many, as driving conditions only worsen with drastic weather changes. In order to increase the safety of you and your passengers, it is important to both appropriately prepare your car for the winter, as well as follow a few driving safety tips.

Preparing Your Car

When a car is in top operating condition, it will not only enhance the safety conditions for drivers and passengers, but also help people save on gas. One of the first things you should do is familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of your vehicle. It is important to read the owner's manual and follow proper winterizing suggestions that involve the battery, lights, defroster, heater, motor oil, antifreeze, wiper blades, windshield washer fluid, tire pressure, brakes and brake fluid, belt, hoses, and filters.

Before hitting the road during winter travel, you must clear the snow and ice from not only all windows and lights, but also the hood and roof of the car.

When driving in the winter, it is suggested to keep your gas tank above the halfway mark in case you become delayed or stranded in a snowstorm. In the case of an emergency, a cell phone or CB radio is known as a true lifesaver. During the wintertime, it is recommended to stock your trunk with emergency supplies, including a small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain, scraper, brush, and bag of sand (or kitty litter), which provides traction for tires. Breakdown kits are also helpful, as should contain a blanket, gloves, boots, road flares, warm clothing, flashlight, extra batteries, water, and a first-aid kit.

Knowing the current road conditions also helps prevent disasters on the road. This is often accomplished by calling your local weather 411 service, viewing weather and traffic information on the Internet, checking the local news for weather advisories and traffic reports, and paying attention to flashing electronic highway signs.

On the Road

In addition to maintaining the safety level of your vehicle, you must also pay extra attention to the way you drive in the wintertime. This means staying off of the cell phone and adhering to the legal speed limit. Additionally, a driver should:

1) Always wear a seatbelt.

2) Stay alert and drive completely sober.

3) Drive with headlights on.

4) Give ample amount of time to slow down when roads are slippery. When roads are icy, it is suggested to delay travel, especially when "black ice" is involved.

5) Do not pass maintenance vehicles or plows on the right and give them at least 200 feet between them and your vehicle.

6) Avoid traveling on bridges during icy conditions.

7) Since trucks take longer to stop than cars, do not cut in front.

8) Avoid cruise control or overdrive in freezing cold weather.

9) Vehicles with four-wheel drive may get drivers going quicker on the road, but does not help them stop any faster.

10) Avoid pumping anti-lock brakes - it is much better to "stomp and steer."