Harsh, winter weather is blanketing much of our nation in snow, ice, and sleet this week, making commutes and routine errands treacherous. Below, we share key tips for surviving this harsh weather, from basic wisdom to driving techniques.
Many drivers will be faced with the tough decision to stay at home or brave the elements. Clearly, putting off non-emergency trips will improve your safety, and potentially that of other motorists. Plus, it will make it easier for municipalities to clear, salt, and sand roads.
If you must go out, heed this advice from the autoMedia professional drivers and AAA Michigan:
- Check the weather report. Know if conditions will worsen, and plan accordingly.
- Pack an emergency kit, with a shovel, traction aid, reflective triangles, and blanket.
- Always travel with a full winter ensemble, including hat, gloves, boots, and heavy jacket, in case you are broken down or stuck for an extended period.
- A cell phone and charger can be among the most useful emergency tools.
- Keep at least a half tank of fuel in the car, in case you get caught in traffic or otherwise delayed longer than expected.
- Tires are the only part of the car touching the road. Make sure the tread depth is enough to give you poor-weather bite. Skip the penny test, and instead use a quarter to measure to Washington's head. You want at least that depth, preferably much more. The tires themselves make a big difference. A snow-bound car should have at least all-season M+S tires (mud and snow), though dedicated winter tires definitely make a demonstrable difference. (Learn about the safety of modern winter tires.)
- Before starting out in snowy weather, take time to remove the snow from the entire car so it doesn't blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors and lights are clean. In many states, this is the law. In all states, it is common sense.
- Drive with your low-beam headlights illuminated.
- Be especially wary of icy surfaces on bridges, intersections, and turns even when the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.
- Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.
- When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of trucks, which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop.
- Don't use cruise control in precipitation and freezing temperatures.
- Remember that four-wheel drive helps you to get going quicker, but it won't help you stop any faster.
- Apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal with anti-lock brakes. Remember, a key benefit of ABS is that it allows you to steer during maximum braking.
Being prepared, with the right gear and attitude, can make a significant difference in winter-driving safety. Remember that road-surface conditions can vary constantly. Don't become complacent. Keep both hands on the wheel, scan constantly for potential dangers, and be smooth and predictable with your actions.
A little caution can go a long way... to your destination and back home.