Three Easy Steps to Winter Driving Safety
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Three Easy Steps to Winter Driving Safety

Winter driving conditions claim the lives of hundreds of motorists every year. Amongst the dead are handfuls of people who proceed into the white unknown without the knowledge, tools, or assistance to make it out the other side. Through this article, you can learn some of the basics of surviving the winter driving season while still being able to enjoy the beauty that nature possesses.

Winter: it’s a season we all enjoy in some fashion. Whether it is the family get-togethers, the placid beauty of snow, or the vacation getaways to someplace warm, winter gives a wealth of opportunities for recreation, work, and genuine excitement. However, winter also brings with it a set of challenges, one of which is driving conditions.

With ice and packed snow reducing traction, fog and whiteout conditions reducing visibility, and cold temperatures reducing the effectiveness of batteries, weakening metal parts, and solidifying vehicle fluids, driving in winter weather conditions can be more of a nightmare than a challenge. Although vehicle winterization is the key to a safe and successful trip, we will leave those topics to another time. In this article, we will address driving in winter conditions by itself.

If you live in the Southern United States, you will likely not encounter winter driving conditions on a regular basis. However, if you reside in any part of Canada except mainland British Columbia, in the Midwest, East Coast, Great Lakes region, or Pacific Northwest, winter driving conditions will greet you year after year, usually beginning in late October and continuing through mid-March. To prepare yourself for these circumstances, follow the following three steps to a safe and happy winter travel season.

Be Informed

One of the keys to avoiding hazardous driving conditions in the first place is by paying attention to local weather forecasts and traffic reports. Even if you are not in your home state, you can easily access a local weather forecast for your area through weather.com and the DOT of the state through which you are traveling. In addition, if you bring a weather radio along with you as you travel, you will be able to hear the latest updates from the National Weather Service regarding severe weather conditions.

Be Prepared

Knowing what to expect from the road ahead is only part of the process that leads to a safe winter driving season. Preparation is second-most important. In reality, what you bring with you in your vehicle could be essential to preserving your life in the event that you become stranded, so physical preparation is highly important before you set off on the road.

  • Bring Fuel. Fuel is important not only to get you to your destination without unneeded stops but also to provide heat should you have to spend a night or two in your vehicle. Always fill your gas tank before you set off and attempt to keep it at least at half full throughout the duration of your trip.
  • Bring Food. Food is the fuel of your body: without out it, you cannot make sound decisions or provide for your own welfare. In the event that you need to spend a prolonged period of time in your vehicle, it is important to pack an assortment of trail mixes, energy bars, or other foods with significant calorie content to give your body the power it needs to make heat.
  • Bring Emergency Gear. In the majority of situations where individuals become stranded in the snow, they don’t have the proper gear to survive. A simple kit of tire chains, kitty litter, sand or rock salt, a small snow shovel, a flare gun, a butane lighter, a first aid kit, and emergency air horn or whistle should be sufficient for regular on-road trips to get yourself out of a snowbank or alert emergency personnel as to your exact location. Don’t be caught in the cold unprepared.

Be Known

Once you and your vehicle are ready for the road, make sure that you have a form of contact with the outside world. Charge your cell phone to its full capacity and bring along a car charger to refill the battery if it runs low, bring along a CB or VHF radio to communicate with other drivers if you plan on a long road trip in poor driving conditions, and most of all, let a family member or friend know where you are going, how long you plan to be gone, and what route you are taking.

By following these simple steps and using common sense, you can ensure yourself of a safe and enjoyable trip in winter conditions. Always travel at a reasonable speed, move smoothly on the road, and avoid exceeding the limits that your vehicle is designed to handle. Just because you have a four-wheel drive does not mean that you can go anywhere or do anything. Every vehicle has a limit. And when the weather turns for the worse, remember that it is preferable to arrive late and alive than to never arrive at all.

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Comments (2)

Excellent tips. If I may add, please don\'t hit your brakes hard to stop. I found putting my car in neutral takes that power off the wheels and gentlly tapping your brakes prevents spin outs. I found this one on buzz. I buzzed this up and hopefully more drivers will read your helpful article. I am also following you. Chris

Thank you. Yes, I should have added that one. I have seen countless drivers slam on their brakes especially when sliding on ice, and all it does is cause them to wreck. Thanks for your support.

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