For drivers in many parts of the U.S., the onslaught of winter means dealing with freezing temperatures, reduced visibility and the possibility of ice, slush and snow on the roadway. Make sure you're prepared for this winter's road conditions by taking some precautions:
- Get your vehicle in shape. Check the brakes, battery, anti-freeze level, lights and windshield wipers before winter arrives. Depending on your location, you may want to have winter tires installed too.
- Put together a seasonal emergency kit. Even if you carry a first-aid kit and non-perishable food in your vehicle, you need to prepare for cold weather travel. Make sure you have insulated blankets or sleeping bags, hand and foot warmers, work gloves, a flashlight and extra batteries, a lighter or matches, and an ice scraper and shovel.
- Always plan ahead. The number of road hazards you're likely to encounter increase dramatically in the winter months. Before you head out, check the weather and the road conditions along the route you plan to travel.
Tips for Defensive Driving in Winter Weather Conditions
Defensive driving is essential during the winter. These tips can help keep you safe whenever you're behind the wheel:
- Minimize distractions. Charge your cell phone and shut it off before you get on the road. Get rid of any other gadgets that may distract you from concentrating on the road too.
- Watch your speed. When you're driving in winter weather conditions, you need to ignore the posted speed limit and slow down.
- Don't tailgate. Instead, leave three times the normal distance between your car and the vehicle ahead. When there's snow, slush or ice on the road, that distance can help you avoid a rear-end collision if you have to apply the brakes.
- Handle skids correctly. If your car begins to skid, take your foot off the gas, don't touch the brake pedal, and steer in the direction of the spin. Once you've regained traction, it's safe to straighten the vehicle.