Safety Tips For Driving In Snow

You may face driving in snow during the winter in the United States. The thought alone may scare you if you have never done it. Luckily, you can prepare yourself.

Before your first winter on the road there are precautions you can take. Learning about what to keep in your vehicle is helpful. Having items in case of an emergency can boost your confidence.

You can also make sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions. This does not just include making sure that your car will start. It will also allow your vehicle to properly handle the slippery roads.

Knowing what to expect while driving in poor conditions can help prepare you as well. Doing research and reading about how to drive in snow is your first step. If you understand what can happen you will know how to handle the vehicle.

After you are comfortable driving in poor conditions it will come naturally. However, it is still nice to have a refresher on how to prepare for each winter. Here is some important information and tips to get you going.

U.S. Accident Statistics

Average speeds decline on slushy or snowy roads by thirty or forty percent in the U.S. That means you may need more time to reach your destination.

As winter approaches, you should gradually start leaving for your destinations earlier. Building this extra time in your routine, you will not feel rushed to get out the door.

More than 1,300 people die in the United States while driving in winter weather. Also, 116,800 people sustain injuries due to slush, snow and ice on the roads every year.

It is very important, to take the time to prepare for the winter. Learning about driving in snow is a great place to start. It’s the best way to avoid becoming part of that statistic.

First, you should make sure your vehicle is properly prepared.

General Winter Preparation Tips

What does preparing your vehicle mean? Here is a common list of things that you or a mechanic should check:

  • Belts, assure they are not loose and check for wear.
  • Check your spark plugs.
  • Make sure your antifreeze is not diluted and is full.
  • Check your windshield wiper fluid level.
  • New windshield wipers, there are some designed for the winter weather.
  • Have your battery tested
  • Check your tire pressure and tread.
  • Also check your spare tire.
  • Make sure your jack is in working order and readily available.
  • Check and change if needed, your air and fuel filters.

You should also keep some essential items in your vehicle just for the winter seasons. Here is a list you can use to get you fully set for winter:

  • Jumper cables.
  • Tire changing tools.
  • Spare tire.
  • Flashlight.
  • First aid kit.
  • Basic tool set.
  • Roadside emergency kit.
  • A small shovel.
  • Tow and tire chains.
  • Bag of salt or kitty litter.
  • Windshield wiper fluid.
  • Antifreeze.
  • Ice scraper/brush.
  • Survival kit

A survival kit is very important if you find yourself stranded in the winter. Everyone may have their own thoughts on what they need to survive. Here is a simplified list:

  • Compass.
  • Wooden matches.
  • Nonperishable food.
  • Drinking water.
  • Cell phone charger.
  • Blankets.
  • Warm clothing.

Now if you do become stranded, the best thing you can do is stay calm. First, you should turn on emergency lights. Then set out emergency cones so people are aware you are in distress.

Then if you have a cell phone, call 911. You may not know exactly where you are, but try to remember landmarks. Tell them your origin and what your destination was so they are aware of the route.

Try to stay inside your vehicle as much as possible. As well as, stay near your vehicle so help can find you. If you can run your engine, do so for ten minutes every hour for heat. Be sure to vent a door or window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

Move around in the vehicle to keep your body warm. This will help circulate blood and oxygen throughout your body. Be sure to not over exert yourself and get sweaty.

Try to conserve your vehicle's gas and battery as much as possible. At night, turn on a small light in the vehicle so you are visible. Drink water or other fluids to avoid dehydration and eat sparingly.

Less Well-Known Hazards

Driving in the winter is tricky for anyone. However, you can better prepare yourself for hazards you may face. There are many hazards during the winter, some are obvious to you like snow and ice.

Visibility, salt, cold, tire pressure and battery pressure are prone to problems in the winter? These may be less thought of, but you can take precautions to avoid these issues.

Effects Of Salt

Salt is like an oxymoron. It is on the roads to help melt snow and ice but did you know it can harm your vehicle. Salt can eat away at the metal on your vehicle, causing rust. Eventually this creates weak spots on your car's exterior and undercarriage.

Be sure to regularly wash your vehicle in the winter. Taking proper care of your vehicle in the winter can extend the life by a huge amount.

Salt can also create mud and slush under your vehicle. This can really compound in cavities. Again, frequent car washes will stop any build up.

Build Up Of Slush

Your wheel wells can also compact slush, snow and ice around your wheels. Check around your wheel wells regularly and clear out any icy mix compacted in there. Sometimes a good kick will knock it loose. If that does not work, you can chisel it with an ice scraper.

Slush on the roads due to melting ice and snow is just as slippery as ice. Stay driving at a slow, steady pace through slush.

Freezing Temperatures

Sometimes there is not any snow or ice in the winter but it is very cold. Cold can cause some problems all by itself. You can run into problems such as low tire pressure, dead batteries and frozen fuel lines.

However, you may also get stranded and you will need to keep yourself and any passengers warm. Keep extra blankets and clothes in your car for that purpose.

During the cold temperatures, air in your tires may contract creating low tire pressure. Low tire pressure can cause low traction. Check your tire pressure weekly to make sure they are properly inflated.

During cold temperatures, your battery may also drain more quickly. Be sure to have a fully charged battery and have a mechanic check it over. If your battery is old, it is time to replace it. A new battery will hold a better charge and should be added every 6 years.

If you notice some build-up around your terminals, you will need to clean it off. Build-up causes the alternator to not properly recharge your battery.

Many places will do this free of charge when you get an oil change or maintenance work done. However, if you are comfortable, you can do it yourself. A wire brush will clean the terminals easily.

Make sure you have a good connection at your terminals. This will allow the alternator to properly do its job.

Drive With Enough Fuel

Keeping over half a tank of gas in your vehicle during the winter is a good rule of thumb. When your fuel level is low it may cause your fuel lines to freeze. Frozen fuel lines can take time to thaw out, so you would not be going anywhere for a while.

Don’t Rush

Driving in the winter is difficult until you feel comfortable. You should always allow yourself more time to reach your destination. Giving yourself more time will allow you to go slower. It will also help you feel less stress due to having a comfortable amount of time to arrive.

When warming up your vehicle, do not warm it up in an enclosed garage. This may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t think this will save time; there’s no point risking your life.

Vehicle Lights

When your lights are reflecting off the snow, you lose visibility. Drive slowly or pull over if necessary when visibility is very low.

Also, before the winter months check your vehicle lights. Make sure your headlight lenses are clean and fog free. This will increase your brightness for other drivers to see you too.

Accessories You Should Invest In

There is also special lighting you can get to help you in the winter months. An LED light bar, will not only allow other drivers to see you more clearly. It will allow you to see better and much further ahead.

These lights are definitely worth investing in if you do a lot of driving in the winter. The expanded light provides more visibility to see everything going on around you. They are very helpful on rural roads at night where it can be completely dark.

In addition to LED light bar you may invest in tires made specially for the winter. These tires are proven to give you more traction.

If you do not want to invest in winter treads, you may want to look into car chains for snow. These may only be necessary in places that receive constant heavy snow.

If you like style, you may want to look at snow socks for cars. These will give your more traction but also come in many designs.

How to Drive in Snow with Front Wheel Drive

Most vehicles are front wheel drive which are recommended in the winter. In any vehicle, slow and steady is the important thing to remember.

When driving a front wheel drive vehicle, your front wheels have two jobs. They steer and power the vehicle. Make sure your front tires are getting traction. Being aware of some tips for driving in snow, will give you courage and confidence. Knowledge is always the best preparation before driving in snow for the first time.

Everything you do while driving in the winter is safely done at a slower pace. When you turn the wheel of your car, do it at a slower speed. If you happen to skid, stay calm. Do not lock your brakes up, you will lose control of steering. Keep your wheel steady and let off the gas.

If you feel the back-end of your vehicle slide often, it is probably very light in the rear. You can always put sand bags or bags salt in the rear of your vehicle. This will add weight to help prevent sliding.

If you ever get stuck in the snow you can also use them to help get moving again. You can dump them in snow by your tires for more traction.

Take the extra time to notice your surroundings and other drivers. You will have more to think about so you can react to situations with more time to maneuver slowly.

Quick stops and turns can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. So, if you allow yourself more time to stop and turn, you are less likely to slide.

If you can avoid snow-covered roads you are less likely to get stuck. So, if you can stay home, it is always best until you see plowed roads. If you must go out stay on main roads, that way in the case you get stuck, chances are, help will come to recuse more quickly.

Obviously, you will not understand how driving in the snow feels until you actually do it. I am sure you have felt your vehicle hydroplane before though. Hydroplane is where your tires lose traction with the ground and you may feel your vehicle slide or pull.

In the snow, it is similar to constantly feeling your vehicle hydroplane. You may feel sliding and then suddenly feel your tires catch. Only to feel your tires lose traction again.

The constant loss and gain of traction can make your vehicle difficult to steer. Always keep two hands on the wheel and this will help steady the vehicle when your tires are without traction.

Prepare For Every Winter

After a full winter driving in snow and ice, you will feel ready for the next winter. However, with the first snow of every year, remember to go slow to readjust. Always remember other drivers are also adjusting to the weather.

Always make sure you prepare for winter before the first snowfall that way you have your vehicle packed for the winter. Also make sure your vehicle is mechanically ready for the winter. You can do this yourself or have a professional do it.

Courage, confidence, and being comfortable is just as important and will come with time.

About the Author Jeff

Hey, I'm Jeff, thanks for visiting my website! I have been obsessed with LED light bars ever since they came out and over the last couple of years I have been testing and reviewing LED light bars. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch by clicking on our contact page.

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