Winter is can be a dangerous time for American driver and winter driving can be hazardous. Drivers in parts of the country that get snow should be well-prepared for conditions over the next couple months and your vehicles must be prepared too. You are likely to experiences infamous black ice, all-encompassing whiteouts and blizzards so why not prepare now? Brave the winter with the following five essential tips for safe, accident-free driving:
#1 Survival Kit, Assemble!
It is recommend that you gather essential supplies in your trunk, so that if you're ever stranded, you'll be able to survive Bear Grylls-style. Pack the essentials into a duffel bag for ample space. Begin assembling your survivor kit with spare prescription medicine, high-calorie food (perhaps any of the now defunct Hostess products), bottled water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, thick blankets and an assortment of tools to make Tim Taylor proud. It's also wise to bring jumper cables, a shovel and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction when you might be able to get yourself out of trouble without the aid of a tow truck.
#2 Winterize Your Car
It is a good idea to have a mechanic check your car's fuel, ignition, cooling and exhaust systems every year. Fluid levels and batteries should be checked; and belts, brakes, wipers and hoses should be in good condition. If you are not sure you can afford all the maintenance at once, it's a good idea to spread out the costs or learn to do some DIY maintenance. Slippery winter conditions mean you'll need good dependable tires with adequate tread for good traction in snow. Snow tires a good option if you live in an area with harsh winters. Michelin tires are the best you can buy since they provide great performance in all driving conditions, including wet winter weather, and last a long time.
#3 Slow Ridem
There's never a better time to drive defensively than winter. Slow down—you shouldn't be going as fast as you do in the summertime—and be extra-careful going over or under bridges and overpasses. Allow extra space between yourself and the car in front of you, in case you need to make a sudden stop. Inspect your tires before you leave to make sure they're inflated and wearing evenly. Make sure you're familiar with the skills to recover from a skid—if you start skidding, gently steer your car in the direction of the car's rear. Keep an eye out for disabled vehicles on the side of the road, never pass snowplows and, above all else, wear your seat belt—click it or ticket.
#4 The Man with a Plan
If you're planning to make a trip during the winter, make sure someone knows where you're going (and your route); check weather conditions before you leave. Most state patrol or highway department websites offer up-to-the-minute information on road conditions. Television and radio stations, including weather band radio, also provide current and reliable weather forecasts. Before you leave, double-check that you've got everything you need in your survival kit. Check around the circumference of your car before you depart, and every time you stop, ensure that your tires and other equipment are still in good condition. Take frequent breaks at rest stops or gas stations to prevent exhaustion and fatigue, and pull over to the nearest shelter if a storm becomes overwhelming. Don't allow your gas tank to drop too low before refilling; fill that sucker up frequently.
#5 Stuck in the Snow & Nowhere to Go
When you're stuck in feet of snow or some other winter-related wretchedness has wrecked your car, turn on your blinkers and stay put in the driver's seat; you don't want to run the risk of being hit by passing traffic. Use the supplies in your emergency kit, stay warm and periodically check your exhaust pipe—if it's clogged with snow and ice, you could pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're hopelessly stranded with nary a cell phone signal, you'll be forced to flag down another vehicle or walk to the nearest service station for assistance.
Experts, including law enforcement, agree that the key to safe winter driving is twofold: advance planning and awareness. Start your preparations now, pay attention to weather conditions and you can overcome cranky Old Man Winter.