Between the ice, snow, rain, and wind, as well as the shorter days and longer nights, winter driving can be very risky.
In fact 24% of all accidents are a direct result of bad winter conditions. So it is imperative that drivers learn how to stay safe in poor winter weather conditions.
NOTE: An Illinois adult online drivers education course can help you learn the techniques you need to drive safely in the winter.
Here are some of the basic tips that you will learn to keep safe when driving in this dangerous time of year:
Winterize Your Vehicle Before You Drive
Before driving in winter conditions, you need to do some simple maintenance winterize your vehicle. Here are the most important things to do:
- Take your car in for a tune-up. Most of the basic maintenance will be done.
- Have your brakes checked and replace any degraded parts.
- Check your car for carbon monoxide leaks.
- Replace your windshield wipers with winter wiper blades and replace your windshield wiper fluid with winter fluid.
- Check your heater and defrost to make sure they work properly.
- Inspect your headlights, taillights, brake lights, and turning signals to make sure they work correctly. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
- Make sure the tread on your tires are good. Also check the tire pressure, sudden changes in weather can affect tire pressure.
- Consider rotating your tires. Also you may want to invest in snow tires if you are in a rural area where the roads are not cleared regularly.
- Check the battery to make sure it’s in good condition. Winter driving can be very hard on your electrical system.
- Check your antifreeze. It is recommended you change your antifreeze every two years.
- Change your oil. Check with your mechanic to see if you need a “winter weight” oil.
How To Drive In The Snow
One of the more difficult winter weather conditions to drive in is heavy snow. If you can, you should avoid driving until the roads have been safely cleared. However if you find yourself caught in a snowstorm or have to drive in the snow, here are some basic tips to keep you safe:
- Reduce your speed, drive at the speed limit or preferably less.
- Keep your windshield wipers and defrost on at all times to increase windshield visibility.
- Make sure you keep your headlights on so that other drivers can see you.
- Always accelerate slowly. If you apply your gas slowly your car will have more traction and your wheels won’t spin so you are less likely to skid.
- Give yourself extra time to slow down when you need to stop. You have less traction in the snow so you will not be able to stop as quickly as you normally can. Try to avoid any sudden stops if possible.
- Since stopping takes longer, you need to give yourself more distance between yourself and the car in front of you. Never tailgate.
- When going up a hill, take your time. If you accelerate too hard you will spin out your tires and lose momentum. Also try to avoid stopping on a hill because you may end up sliding backwards.
- If the road has not been plowed, try to follow the treadmarks or the cars that have gone before you. You may find there’s more traction.
- Avoiding changing lanes, many times the snow is more slippery in the areas between lanes.
- If you start to skid, don’t fight it. Just like when you hydroplane, you want to guide the drift of the car safely until you can regain traction.
- If there is a white-out, find a safe place to pull over and wait out the storm.
How To Drive In Icy Conditions
Many times in the winter, the snow will compact and lead to icy roads. Other times, freezing rain and sleet will create icy road conditions. Icy roads are incredibly dangerous to drive on because you car has no traction. If you can, you should always try to avoid driving on icy roads, but if you have to keep these safety tips in mind:
- Stay calm. Driving on icy roads can be very scary, but it you let your stress get the better of you, you can easily put yourself in a dangerous situation.
- Keep your eye out for black ice. Black ice looks just like regular highway because it is clear so it can be especially dangerous.
- Try to avoid driving on any areas of the road with ice if you can.
- Always drive slowly over ice, you car has no traction so it is very easy to lose control.
- If you drive a manual or have the options of lower gears on your automatic, shift into a lower gear. Lower gears have more traction and will give you more control when driving on the ice.
- Keep a large distance between you and any other cars and give yourself ample time to stop. Sudden stops are very hard to control on the ice.
- If you hit a patch of ice, keep the wheel straight and do not slam on the brakes or hit the accelerator. Drive slowly and deliberately, any sudden movements can cause you to lose complete control of your vehicle.
- If you start sliding, the best way to slow down is to release the accelerator.
- If you are on a patch of ice and start losing control try to steer to dry areas or areas with more traction so you can regain control of your car.
- If you lose complete control of your vehicle, try to steer toward whatever will cause the least damage. It is better to steer yourself off the road rather than hitting another vehicle.
- Try to avoid hills if possible because you may not have enough traction to get the momentum to climb the hill and will end up sliding backwards out of control.
- If the road conditions are too dangerous, find a safe place to pull over until the ice is cleared
Facing Winter Emergency
Despite your efforts in staying away from danger, there might still be a chance of being caught in wintry weather that you’ll need to stop in the middle of ice and snow. Here’s what you can do then:
- Just stay in your car. Don’t try to find other ways to rescue yourself as you will only overexert yourself in doing so.
- This situation may cause asphyxiation. To avoid this, don’t run your car with your windows up for long periods.
- Keep your interior dome light on and, if you can, put bright markers on the antenna or your windows.
- In case you need to get going and run your car, make sure that you clear the exhaust pipe of any snow. Run the engines only sporadically just to keep it warm.
Always Stay Protected
Just like in any extreme weather driving condition, make sure that you follow the basic principles of safe driving. This will keep you and your loved ones protected at all times. Let’s review these basic safe driving tips:
- You should always wear your seatbelt and ensure that every passenger will do so as well. If you have kids under the age of thirteen on board, they should always be bucked-up in age- and size-appropriate car seats.
- An additional tip to keep your child safe, choose thin, warm layers for your kid instead of thick and warm outwear. This will ensure that his or her clothing will not interfere with the harness fit on your child in a car seat. To compensate for the thin layers, you can place blankets over them after you have secured them in their seats.
- Of course, you should never leave your kid inside the vehicle alone, especially in winter.
- You should avoid using air recirculation settings. This setting closes off the vents and it will allow outside air into your car. If you need to use it, at least open your windows slightly to have more balance.
If you stay prepared, and follow these tips for driving in the snow and on the ice, you will reduce your risk of a winter accident.
Also, an Illinois adult online drivers education course will help you hone these skills so when the winter weather approaches, you’ll be ready!
And remember the obvious…. The best form of defensive driving when there are poor weather conditions is to not drive at all!
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