It’s the time of year where the weather conditions in Northeast Ohio can make traveling any distance treacherous. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration, 17% of all vehicle crashes occur during winter conditions.
Even the most experienced driver can feel nervous about venturing out onto a snowy, slushy or icy road. But if you’re a new driver, it may be your first time getting behind the wheel in these conditions which makes it a particularly dangerous time. It’s important to understand how to be as safe as possible on the roads throughout the winter season to keep yourself and others safe.
We have a few winter driving tips to ensure that you will have a safe trip no matter what Mother Nature throws at you this season.
Preparing to Drive in Icy, Snowy and Cold Weather
Tip #1: Winterize Your Vehicle
Now is the time to schedule those maintenance tasks you’ve been putting off during the warmer weather. A few of the items you should check include:
- Tires and tire pressure
- Brakes and brake pads
- Hoses and belts
- Headlights and brake lights
- Windshield wipers
- Heater and defrosters
Tip #2: Safety Checks Before Each Trip
Check and prep these items before you head out on the road.
- Clean off your backup camera lens, windows, headlights and brake lights and roof
- Make sure your tank is at least half full
- Check your windshield wiper fluid
- Charge your phone and have a charger with you
- Have the numbers for a towing service or AAA saved in your phone
- Check the weather and your routes before leaving
- Visually check your tires
- Ensure your seat and mirrors are in the proper position
Tip #3: Have an Emergency Kit
Part of prepping your car for winter includes creating an emergency kit just in case your vehicle breaks down or you get caught in the elements. Keep a box in the trunk filled with items like blankets, a change of clothes, a small snow shovel, extra cell phone chargers, water bottles, jumper cables, flares, flashlights, a flat tire repair kit, and a spare tire. You should also have a good snow brush/scraper and extra windshield wiper fluid.
Driving Defensively in Icy Conditions
Once you have prepared your vehicle, you’re ready to hit the road. Some tips for driving safely:
Panicking when you’re driving in dangerous conditions is not going to help your situation. Try to keep your cool, take a few deep breaths, keep your eyes open and your hands on the wheel.
Take it Slow.
When driving on a snowy or icy road, remember to accelerate and decelerate slowly to regain traction and avoid skidding off into the berm. It takes longer to slow down on ice, so be ready as you’re approaching a red light or a stop sign. Use less pressure on the brake pedal to avoid sliding to a stop.
Use Smooth Breaking.
Try to avoid sudden movements when you hit an icy spot, which includes accelerating and/or jamming on the brakes. Hitting the brakes too forcefully will cause the car to slide, and you can easily lose control of the vehicle when that happens.
Turn INTO a slide.
If you feel your vehicle sliding or fishtailing, slow down by gently reducing your speed as mentioned above. Turn the wheel in the direction the rear of the car is sliding to regain control of the car’s momentum.
Avoid hills and bridges when possible.
Plan your route to avoid dangerous hills and bridges. There will be no way to stop yourself from sliding down an icy hill, as gravity will be working against you in this case! Also, remember that bridges and overpasses tend to freeze faster than other roads, even when they’ve been treated with salt.
Be extra cautious of other drivers.
You might feel confident enough to drive on icy roads, but others out there may not. Always stay alert and aware of those around you, keeping a safe distance away from other vehicles at all times.
Winter Skills Clinic Offered by DriveTeam
Drive Team offers a unique four-hour winter skills clinic designed especially for teens. With this hands-on training in our SkidCar and SkidVan, you’ll learn skid avoidance and control, traction control and crash avoidance. We even cover how to properly winterize your car. Slots are filling up, so register today!