Winter is already here. Are you prepared to drive in the snow? For many, this is their first winter driving. Do you know what to do in times of trouble?
Before you head out on your trip, you should make sure your car is in perfect working condition. Reliable transportation is especially important in the winter. Make sure that your car is ready for whatever may come your way. Prepare your vehicle for winter by following some of these simple precautions:
- Check your windshield wiper blades to make sure they work properly. In some areas, snow blades are an effective alternative to conventional wiper blades.
- Have your mechanic test the anti-freeze/coolant to provide the correct level of protection required in your driving area.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Underinflation can reduce the gripping action of tires because the tread will not meet the road surface as it was designed to do. Overinflation has the same effect.
- Don’t depend on all-season tires, especially if you live where snow and ice are certainties. Install snow tires on your car. Snow tires are made of softer components and have a unique tread design that provides better traction and road gripping abilities.
- Keep your gas tank at least half-full. The extra volume can help reduce moisture problems within your fuel system. It also adds beneficial weight to your vehicle.
Extra weight in the trunk of truck bed of your vehicle may be helpful. Use care- unsecured weight can shift while you are driving if you have to stop suddenly. Bags of sand or kitty-litter can provide weight and if sprinkled on the ice, can provide traction.
You should also check your:
- Ignition system
- Exhaust system
- Tire tread
- Oil grade
- Before you even get into your vehicle, have a plan.
- Plan your trip by selecting both primary and alternative routes.
- Inform someone of your routes. This way, if you don’t arrive on time officials know where to begin searching for you.
- Check the latest weather reports.
- Try not to travel alone. Two or three people are preferable.
- Travel in a convoy, with another vehicle if possible.
- If a storm begins to be too much for you to handle, seek refuge immediately.
- If your car should become disabled, stay with the vehicle, running your engine and heater for short intervals. Be sure to "crack" a window in the vehicle to avoid carbon monoxide build-up.
Before you leave your driveway:
- Scrape the ice and snow from every window and the exterior rear view mirrors, not just a small patch on the windshield. Don’t forget to remove snow from your headlights and brake lights.
- Try to remove ice and snow from your shoes before getting into your vehicle. As they melt, they create moisture build-up, causing windows to fog on the inside. You can reduce fogging by turning the air recirculation switch to the OFF position. This brings in drier, fresh air. You can also run your air conditioner which serves as a dehumidifier after a few minutes.
- Wear your passenger safety belts.
- Adjust head rests. Rear end collisions are common in the winter and a properly-adjusted head rest can prevent or reduce neck injuries.
Now that you have read over precautions that apply to the safety of your vehicle and the planning of your trip, you should also take the necessary precautions while behind the wheel. Drive for the conditions. Winter conditions call for different driving tactics, slower speed, slower acceleration, slower steering, and slower breaking. Don’t get over confident with four-wheel drive. It won’t help you stop any faster! When driving, follow these precautions:
- Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than you usually allow between you and the car ahead of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
- Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
- Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even if temperatures are above freezing, you might encounter ice in the shady or exposed areas like bridges.
- Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks.
Coffee Can Survival Kit... Here's how to make your own:
2 or 3 pound coffee can (punch 3 holes at the top of can, equal distance apart)
60-inch length of twine or heavy string (cut into 3 equal pieces - used to suspend can)
3 large safety pins (tie string to safety pins and pin to car roof interior to suspend can over candle)
1 candle 2" diameter (place on lid under suspended can for melting snow)
1 pocket knife, reasonably sharp (or substitute with scissors)
3 pieces of bright cloth 2" wide x 36" long (tie to antenna or door handle)
Several packets of soup, hot chocolate, tea, bouillon cubes, etc. (mixed into melted snow to provide warmth and nutrition)
1 small package of peanuts (provides protein) & fruit-flavored candy (orange slices, jelly beans, etc.-avoid chocolate)
1 pair of athletic socks (cotton) and 1 pair of glove liners (cotton)
2 packages of book matches
1 sun shield blanket or 2 large green or black plastic leaf bags (to reflect body heat)
1 pen light and batteries (keep separate)
When complete, place stocking cap over kit and carry in passenger compartment of car. If you have a 3 pound can, you will still have additional room for band-aids, aspirin, small radio, etc. If there is still room left, increase the quantity of any of the above items or improvise items you feel might be necessary.
Remember hypothermia (rapid loss of body temperature) can happen to anyone! Stay in your car until help arrives! An accident or severe weather situation can occur at any time. Your driver must be aware of the effects of cold weather in the event he or she becomes stranded.