Winter Driving Safety Tips
Snow can be great! It turns the world into a winter wonderland, kids might get a day off school, and you can enjoy all of your favorite winter sports. However, it can be as dangerous as it is fun, especially when it comes to travel.
Why You Need to Know This
Whether you love snow or hate it with a fiery passion (welcome to the club), I’m sure we can all agree that driving in winter weather is miserable. However, it can also be costly at best and fatal at worst if an accident occurs. Up to 22% of car accidents in the US can be attributed to inclement weather conditions, and they cause roughly 6,000 deaths a year. Because of this, you need to take the necessary precautions to keep you and your family safe.
Why It’s Personal
My Medic was founded to save lives after a tragic car accident took the life of a loved one. They survived the initial wreck, but passed away while waiting for emergency services. Bystanders attempted to help, but they lacked the necessary training and equipment to do so. Our goal is to prevent unnecessary deaths by providing people the necessary equipment and training to save lives in emergencies.
Preparing to Drive in Snow & Ice
Before you even get into your car, there are a few things you need to know.
Keep Your Car in Optimal Condition
While it’s important to make sure every part of your car (at least the important bits – the sadly radio doesn’t count) is in working condition at the very least, you need to pay special attention to your tires. A good set of tires will help you stop faster in snowy conditions and can be the difference between an accident and a small scare you can gripe about.
Another thing you should check on is your windshield wiper fluid. Apparently, they’re not all created equal! The one I bought in Texas is not made for freezing temperatures. So imagine my surprise when it froze to the windshield. Don’t make the same mistake I did and fill your car with anti-freezing windshield washer fluid!
Pack a Winter Emergency Kit
Breaking down is an extremely unfortunate situation that literally no one wants to experience. However, it’s not an impossible occurrence. Just in case it does happen to you, make sure you’re prepared by throwing an emergency kit in your back seat. A very basic one should include the following items:
- Car first aid kit
- Extra warm clothes
- Non-perishable snacks
If your area gets a lot of snow, you should also consider including a small shovel and ice scraper. It’s always better to be over-prepared than suffering without something!
Never Leave Home Without…
There are various items you should never leave home without in case of an emergency. Once the cold hits, you should never get into your car without a coat and proper footwear. Even if it’s jacket weather outside, you never know when the weather could take a dive. And if you do end up getting stranded, you could risk getting hypothermia or frostbite if you don’t dress appropriately.
Secondly, the winter emergency kit we just covered should live in your car! If it seems like overkill to you, at the very least include a car first aid kit. It could be the difference between life and death for you or someone nearby.
Never Run Your Car in an Enclosed Space
Climbing into a freezing cold car is literal torture. Believe me, I understand! However, heating your car in an enclosed space, such as a garage, can have severe consequences. Cars and similar vehicles produce carbon monoxide. If you breathe in just a little, you’ll only get a headache, but breathing in a lot of this gas is lethal. By running a car in a closed garage, you’re allowing carbon monoxide to build up in the space. Even if it would only be for a few minutes, you should still avoid doing so at all costs.
Text a Friend
While I’d recommend against driving in extreme weather, sometimes it’s inevitable. If it’s absolutely necessary, text someone the following information:
- Where you’re going
- What route you’re taking
- When you expect to arrive at your destination
- What time to call 911 if you don’t get back to them
This way, if you do get stranded without cell service, you’ll know that help will be on the way. Just remember to text your friend again when you arrive safely. And be sure to thank them!
Driving in Snow & Ice
Congratulations, you can get in your car now! From here, you just have to watch out for ice, snow, crappy drivers, and a hundred and seven other possible problems. Woohoo!
When in Doubt, Drive Slower
I’m not telling you to go 40 on the freeway (I’d have a pitchfork-wielding mob chasing me if I did). What I am saying is that driving a little slower is generally safer and helps you prepare for upcoming obstacles, gives you extra time to slow down if necessary, and is advantageous if you lose traction.
The Turn Signal Exists for a Reason
While turn signals aren’t exclusive to winter driving, they’re extremely useful to everyone everywhere! Do your fellow drivers a favor and let them know your intentions before switching lanes or turning. c5
How to Drive on Slippery Roads
First of all, you need to drive much slower than usual. If the weather is especially bad, you should drive at 45 miles per hour or less. Any faster can be extremely dangerous, especially if you hit a patch of ice and lose traction. In fact, you can actually get pulled over for driving too fast in poor conditions, as it is considered reckless.
If you do need to accelerate, do so slowly. The same goes for decelerating. You should also ensure there’s ample room between you and the car ahead in case you start to slide or they suddenly hit their brakes.
Don’t use cruise control on wet or icy roads. You need to have full control of the vehicle at all times. This is especially true in the case of emergency stops. You should also avoid sudden movements and quick stops as they can cause your vehicle to lose traction or control.
Lastly, if you lose traction and start to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn your wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not under any circumstances hit the breaks until you regain traction or you will spin out! If you live somewhere that may have icy patches on the roads, you should watch some videos to fully understand how cars react when they lose traction and commit the proper reactions to memory. Taking the time to do this may just save you and your car someday!
Bet you’re glad you have your winter emergency kit now! If you do get stranded, do not leave your car unless it’s in a dangerous location or at risk of exploding. Search and rescue will have an easier time locating you if you’re with your vehicle, and it’s often the warmest and safest option available to you.
General Driving Tips
While most of these should be obvious to anyone who’s gotten a driver’s license, it never hurts to review!
- Buckle up before you even turn the car on
- Don’t drink and drive. You aren’t cool, you’re just a danger to society
- Distracted driving is extremely dangerous, so focus on the road
- Don’t drive under the influence of drugs (including marijuana)
- Avoid aggressive drivers and don’t drive aggressively
- If you’re drowsy, take a nap! Don’t risk falling asleep behind the wheel
- Traffic laws are there for a reason. Follow them
- Keep a minimum of three seconds between you and the car ahead
Make sure you can enjoy this winter to the fullest by keeping you and yours safe this season! Don’t have a first aid kit yet? You can learn why you need an ifak for your car here or purchase your very own car first aid kit here!