Few are off the hook when it comes to dangerous winter driving conditions: according to the Federal Highway Administration, 70% of the United States’ roads are in areas that receive 5 or more inches of snowfall a year. What’s more, during the coldest months, well over 100,000 people are injured annually in crashes on icy or snowy roads. Follow these tips (and feel free to share the infographic below) to keep you, your family, and your car safe.
Ready your vehicle for winter weather
- Get a tune up. Make sure everything in your vehicle is in working condition: ignition, battery, transmission brakes, spark plugs, filters, fan belts, etc.
- Keep your tires inflated. Because of low temperatures and icy roads, you run a heightened risk of flats. Adequate tire pressure will help prevent them.
- Top up your fluids. Your vehicle should always be flush with oil, antifreeze, and especially, windshield wiper fluid.
- Use the right tires. If you live in a hilly region where road conditions are unpredictable, installing winter tires with added traction may be necessary.
Make sure to store the essentials
- Things to keep you warm. Keep blankets, boots, and cold weather clothes in your trunk in case of a breakdown.
- Flashlights and flares. Use these tools to alert other motorists of your presence in case of an emergency. Matches and extra batteries for the flashlights are a good idea, too.
- A fully-inflated spare tire, tripod jack and wrench. These should always be in your car if you get a flat, but in winter the need is especially immediate.
- Tools to keep the snow at bay. Don’t leave home without your ice scraper and snow brush. You really won’t want to have to use your hands.
Know how to drive in snowy conditions
- Maintain an increased stopping distance. With the added risk of slides and spinouts, stay farther away from other vehicles than you would during other seasons: around 8 seconds between your car and others.
- Handle hills correctly. Don’t flood the gas at the crest of a hill, let your inertia bring you to the top. Never stop mid-way up a hill.
- Don’t brake too quickly or forcefully. This will cause you to lose traction and cause steering wheel lockup.
- Accelerate slowly. Hitting the gas when the road is slippery will cause you to skid and lose control. Ease into every acceleration.
Know how to handle a snow drift or breaking down
- Don’t run the engine. Tempting to keep warm in frigid weather, but if your exhaust pipe is clogged, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Don’t try to push your car out of the snow. This could lead to overexertion or worse, the car might drift in your direction.
- Stay in your car. The nearest gas station may not seem far, but if weather conditions shift, just ten minutes outdoors could lead to exposure. Call for help, ignite a flare, or tie a bright colored cloth on your antenna to indicate you are in need of help.