Tips For Traveling Safely In Winter Months
Driving safely in winter weather can be a challenge for even the most experienced driver. It’s easy to forget after months of mild conditions that snow and ice demand careful driving and special preparation for your vehicle. But when 17 percent of all vehicle crashes occur during winter conditions it’s clear that we could all use a refresher when it comes to making our way through a winter wonderland.
Ready Your Vehicle
Driving safely begins before you even get on the road. Regular tune-ups and maintenance are the starting point for safe driving year-round. In winter, pay special attention to your vehicle’s battery, wipers, coolant, tires and other systems that can take a beating when the temperature drops. If you’re using snow tires, have them installed before the snow begins to fall. When you know your vehicle is ready for the road, clear your car of snow, ice or dirt from the windows, forward sensors, headlights, tail lights and backup camera.
Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered road. Increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you. Also remember that every vehicle handles differently; this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Take the time to learn how it handles under winter weather driving conditions. Before heading out, know the weather and traffic conditions, and plan your route accordingly. Give yourself more time to get where you’re going because you’ll be driving more slowly in inclement weather.
Ready for an Emergency
Even if you and your vehicle are prepared, crashes happen. Vehicles break down. Any of us can get caught out in the elements and help might not be just around the corner. Make sure your vehicle is stocked to help get you out of trouble or to keep you safe until help arrives. Keep blankets, flashlights, jumper cables, and flares or emergency lights in your vehicle. Even if you don’t need them, they can be used to help someone else in need on the road.
Safe Driving: Rain, Sleet, Snow or Otherwise Winter driving demands special care; safe driving is a year-round habit. You and everyone in your vehicle should be wearing seat belts for every ride. Children should be in age- and size-appropriate child seats. Never drive after drinking. Never drive when distracted by an electronic device or anything else. Those are the essentials for safe driving, whatever the weather.
Slow down. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. In fact, in 2020, there were an estimated 119,000 police- reported crashes that occurred in wintry conditions. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside the truck. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently. If you find yourself behind a snow plow, stay far enough behind it and use caution if you pass the plow.
What to Do in an Emergency If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, stay focused on yourself and your passengers, your car, and your surroundings.
Stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself.
Let your car be seen. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light on.
Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of any snow and run your car only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm. Don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. Changes You May Notice: Tires As the outside temperature drops, so does tire inflation pressure. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is in your owner’s manual and on a label located on the driver’s side door frame. Do not inflate your tires to the pressure listed on the tire itself. That number is the maximum pressure the tire can hold, not the recommended pressure for the your vehicle.
Some other tips:
Inspect your tires at least once a month and before long road trips.
It’s best to check the tires when they’re cold, meaning that they have not been driven on for at least three hours.
Check each tire’s age. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend replacing tires every six years regardless of use.
An inspection is not just about checking tire pressure and age. Remember to check: for any damage or conditions that may need attention; the tread and sidewalls for any cuts, punctures, bulges, scrapes, cracks or bumps. The tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires; and your spare tire.
If you find tire damage, take your vehicle to a tire service professional.
Consider installing snow tires, but before buying new tires, visit NHTSA’s Tires page to review tire safety ratings. The Uniform Tire Quality Grading System lets you compare tire treadwear, traction performance and temperature resistance.
Side by side of children in car seat, one in puffy coat, one not. In colder weather, parents typically dress their children in winter coats. But it’s important to know that heavy coats can interfere with the proper harness fit on a child in a car seat. When your child will be secured in a car seat, pick thin, warm layers and place blankets or coats around your child after the harness is snug and secure for extra warmth.
Also, make sure car seats and booster seats are properly installed and that any children riding with you are in the right seat for their ages and sizes. See NHTSA’s child passenger safety recommendations to find the right seat for your child’s age and size. You can visit NHTSA’s Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator to find a free car seat inspection site near you, or to get information on virtual inspections.
When the temperature drops, so does battery power. In cold weather, gasoline and diesel engines take more battery power to start, and electric and hybrid-electric vehicles’ driving range can be reduced. Have a mechanic check your battery, charging system, belts, and for any other needed repairs or replacements.
Familiarize yourself with the safety technologies on your vehicle and how they perform in wintry conditions. Know whether your vehicle has an antilock brake system and learn how to use it properly. Antilock brake systems prevent your wheels from locking up during braking. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if you feel your wheels starting to lock up. For more information on driver assistance technologies, visit NHTSA.gov/ DriverAssistTech.
Due to slushy winter conditions, you might consider switching out your usual floor mats for thicker material or rubbery ones. Improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle could interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mat installation and use retention clips to secure the mats. Always use mats that are the correct size and fit for your vehicle.