Four P’s of Safe Winter Driving
Driving during wintry conditions can be tricky and treacherous. Roads can go from wet to icy in a matter of minutes. The most prudent option is to avoid driving whenever the option exists. When it isn’t possible to stay put and ride out slushy, icy roads, the four P’s can help ensure a safer trip.
Plan our your trip. Stay abreast of changing weather and plan your travel when precipitation is minimal and there has been enough time to treat roadways. It is also important to check traffic reports and delays to decide on the best route. Keep in mind that main roads are typically sanded and plowed first.
Allow additional time to reach your destination. Doing so ensures you are not rushed and have plenty of time in the event the roads are worse than anticipated or you get caught behind a plow.
Consider hiring a licensed car service with professional drivers to transport your safely during inclement weather. Opting for a sport utility vehicle instead of a sedan offers the added benefit of four-wheel drive, providing additional traction. This is also a great option if you flight is delayed or diverted to a nearby airport.
While everyone hopes to travel without incident every time they hit the road, it never hurts to be prepared. Stock your car with emergency supplies. Be sure to include a small snow shovel, sand or other material that provides traction (like kitty litter!), and a snow brush with ice scraper. These will all prove useful should your vehicle become stuck. It is also a great idea to keep a tow strap or chain in your car. If a larger vehicle stops to assist, they may be able to pull you out. Make sure you also keeps a few blankets, bottles of water and a flashlight with your emergency supplies.
It is important to prepare your vehicle for travel in wintry weather. Check the oil, hoses and belts before winter arrives. Before any trips recheck your antifreeze level, ensure your wipers are functioning properly, and examine tire treads.
An important, yet often neglected aspect of preparing for winter driving is clearing the snow and ice from the entire vehicle, including those hard-to-reach areas on the roof. Not only does this keep other motorists safe, it helps safeguard against you having an obstructed view as well.
Staying alert and following basic safety practices are the best ways to keep everyone safe. Protect yourself and your passengers by requiring all passengers in your vehicle wear their seat belts. Children under thirteen must be properly restrained in the back seat. Travel with your headlights on to make yourself more visible to other drivers.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Prevent skids and accidents by reducing travel speeds. Accelerate and brake cautiously and allow plenty of additional space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Safety experts generally recommend increasing the distance between vehicles five- to ten-fold depending on the severity of road conditions. It is also important to use care when changing lanes as snow and slush often build up between driving lanes and can cause slipping when crossed.
When roads have the potential to be slippery, do not use cruise control or overdrive. Use low gears to maintain traction and better grip the road. This can be especially important on steep inclines.