With poor weather conditions and slushy roads, it’s important to be safe and prepared for winter driving. There are always a few things you can do to prepare your vehicle and yourself for bad roads and cold weather. Even a short trip down the road can end badly if you and your car aren’t prepared for the conditions. Here are a few reminders on how to prepare and stay safe this winter!
First, be sure that your vehicle is prepped and ready when you go out. You’ll want to make sure your tires are in good shape, with the right pressure and tread life. Remember to swap out your summer tires for winter or all-season tires. Checking on your hoses, fan belts, spark plugs, and filters in your car before you leave could save you from a very long, cold wait for the AAA truck. Be sure to check your antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid levels and battery strength, as well.
It’s also a good idea to carry extra things with you, in case you run into an easily-fixed problem. Always carry a spare tire along with a jack and changing tools. You can grab an extra bottle of antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid for long trips. It’s also a good idea to have jumper cables, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. In the winter, you might want to add a small folding shovel, tow and tire chains, a basic tool kit, and a bag of road salt or kitty litter. You should also have a few warning flares in your trunk in case you get stuck in low visibility weather or at night.
Keep these winter driving do’s and don’ts in mind, too. Before you even set off, check the weather reports, especially if you’re taking a trip long-distance or to an isolated area. Don’t drive if you’re tired: be sure to get a good rest before a big trip. If you warm up your vehicle, don’t do it in a closed garage: even just a couple of minutes can make the air dangerous. Don’t use your cruise control on slippery roads, and always look and steer where you want to go. Make sure everyone in the car is wearing their seatbelt! It’s also a good idea to keep your gas tank at least half-full, to prevent your gas lines from freezing up. Your parking brake could also freeze on cold nights, so if you’re safely parked on a flat area, avoid using it.
You should pack a survival kit as well as your emergency bag, especially if you’re headed somewhere you could be stranded while waiting for help. Have blankets and extra warm clothing on hand in case you have to wait it out in your car. Your survival kit should also include a compass, an ice scraper and brush, and wooden or waterproof matches. You should include drinking water, high-energy non-perishable food, and a portable cell phone charger, all of which you should check regularly to make sure they’re still good and charged.
Remember, if you do get stranded in your vehicle in a winter storm, stay calm and stay in your vehicle. If you can, pull off the road and turn on your hazards, or light your flares. If you have a phone or an in-vehicle emergency service like OnStar, call 911 and give them your location. Make sure your car’s exhaust pipe is clear of snow! You should run your engine and heater about 10 minutes every hour to help stay warm, but make sure you have clear exhaust and some ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. You’ll want to conserve your vehicle’s battery, so use the lights, heat, and radio sparingly. Turn on the lights or a flashlight inside the car at night, so that emergency services can see you.
More Safety Tips for Winter Driving
If you want to know more about safe winter driving, there are lots of sources for you. You can ask your insurance provider or local driving school for advice. AAA also has advice on how to deal with lots of driving situations. Winter is full of fun opportunities and holiday travel, so just make sure to stay safe on the road! Happy Holidays!
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