Snow has arrived for many parts of the country, and that means it's time to brush up on tips for safe winter driving, especially in snow.
The roads can get slick and visibility can dwindle, so always take it easy, drive calmly and stay safe. Whether you've driven in snow often, a short while, or never, it's always a good idea to brush up on the basics to help you stay safe during this time of year.
1. Check that your car is winter-ready
Make sure your car is stocked with an ice scrapper, a snow shovel, and sand or road salt. Keeping your gas tank full in extended cold weather can help minimize the amount of water vapor in your tank, which can freeze when temps drop. Make it a practice to check your windshield fluid levels and check your defoggers, defroster and windshield wipers to make sure they're all ready to roll.
Don't forget to check the tread on your tires to make sure they'll have enough traction to handle the new weather conditions. It's really important to maintain the tires on your car.
2. Clear off your car and increase your following distance
Before you hit the road, take time to clear snow and ice off the car, including windows, mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof, and trunk. Drive with your headlights on and keep them clean to improve visibility.
Roads covered with snowed are slick, so it takes more time to come to a safe and complete stop without sliding into the vehicle in front of you. Reduce your speed, give yourself more time to stop, and double your following distance. Avoid using cruise control in snowy or icy conditions to give yourself more control.
3. Don't stop and go too fast
Bring the car up to speed slowly. Your tires need time to gain traction on wet, snowy, or icy roads, so don't accelerate too quickly.
The same goes for stopping: Give yourself lots of time to stop and apply the brakes slowly, especially when you come to a stop sign or traffic light. Know how your car brakes and handles - and be extra careful if you are driving a rented a vehicle and are unfamiliar with it.
4. Drive slowly
Winter is not the time to speed. Take it easy and remember that everything - slowing down, stopping, turning, accelerating - takes longer when the roads are slippery. Slow it down.
5. Keep rolling
Don't stop on ice or snow if you can avoid it. Winter driving experts suggest that you try to keep a steady pace when rolling into turns, as you approach stop lights, and as you go up and down hills, so that you can maintain enough inertia to keep moving.
AAA recommends slowing down well before a traffic signal so that you can keep rolling until the light changes. It also warns not to power up hills because it can make your tires spin.
6. Consider snow tires
If you're frequently driving in an area with a long winter or weeks of predictable snowfall, you might want to swap your set of all-season tires for winter tires. These work better even when the weather is dry and cold, due to their more flexible rubber compounds.
7. Be prepared
If you plan to travel when inclement weather looms, monitor road and weather conditions. Sign up for weather alerts to receive text messages and optional alerts for your area.
If you must drive in hazardous weather conditions, be prepared. Make sure your gas tank is at least half full in case you are stranded far from a gas station or need the extra fuel to keep your car heated.
Also, consider keeping a supply kit with non-perishable food, water, blankets, gloves, reflective tape, and an extra cell phone charger. If you're heading into more severe conditions, having a shovel is also a good idea.
If your route takes you to remote areas with limited cell phone coverage, consider informing a third party of your travel plans, your planned route, and when you expect to arrive. This way, if you are overdue, first responders will know where to start looking.
8. Don't warm up the car in an enclosed space
If you want to warm up your car before hitting the road, don't do it in a garage or other enclosed space. The fumes and carbon monoxide are dangerous.
Also, in snowy and icy conditions, occasionally check your exhaust pipe to make sure it's not frozen over with ice, which can lead to carbon monoxide getting trapped in the cabin of your vehicle, putting your life at risk.
If you are caught in a snowstorm and become stranded or get stuck in snow, move your car safely out of harm’s way if you can, stay in your car and wait for help. You can run the car heater to stay warm for 10 minutes every hour, but first, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Open your window slightly to help prevent any carbon monoxide buildup.