The first snow storms of the year always feel like we’re in for a Maunder Minimum, a small ice age. The body is not ready for it, and you need to switch from Summer driving to Winter driving.
I’ve made a list of winter driving safety tips that I’ve learned over the years talking to people about severe winter storms, driver visibility, and fuel consumption inclement road conditions.
1. Watch Your Fuel: Driving in four-wheel drive will burn gas faster than normal driving. During colder months, fill up more often to keep your gas tank at least half full. The fuel reserve will be essential if you get stuck in holiday traffic, plus it will add more weight to your vehicle which will help with traction on the road.
2. Change your wiper blades when they start skipping across the windshield. Not only do those lines restrict your visibility, they are an annoyance. Use a wiper fluid that diminishes oil on the glass yet doesn’t crack the wiper blades. Buy an anti-fog glass treatment to cut down on foggy windows.
3. Watch Your Tires: Four-wheel drive doesn’t guarantee good traction. All four of your tires need to have good tread and be inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended air pressure. As the winter months get colder the air in tires contract which reduces the tire air pressure one pound per square inch for each 10-degree drop in temperature; check your inflation pressure more frequently during the cold months. Under-inflation will lessen the gripping action because the tire tread will not meet the road surface as designed to do.
4. Drive like it was your Mother in the car next to you – Leave plenty of room for stopping. Use brakes carefully and correctly; it takes more time and distance to stop in adverse conditions, so plan ahead. Oh, and make sure both you and Mom wear your seatbelt.
5. Watch out for bridges and exits – Bridge decks freeze before roads do because of the difference in the exposure to air. Maneuvering exit ramps can be a challenge since they typically receive less anti-icing material than the main line. Be aware of this when exiting the highway, especially the circular exits and entrances.
6. Keep your cell phone topped off – If you’re stuck, you’re going to want to call for help.
7. Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter conditions – black ice is real. If you are using cruise control you will not have instant control over your car.
8. This is the retail time of year – there are more truckers on the road trying to get all your retail items to you before Christmas. Give them a brake. It takes them longer to stop than it does you, so give them a brake, and brake. Look further ahead in traffic for them, and don’t cut them off. Everytime you cost a trucker money, you cost yourself money.
9. Straighten your wheels. Put a piece of tape on the top of your steering wheel. If you are in freefall and slipping across the road you will want to know if your tires are straight or not, and the easiest way to do it will be to see the tape on your steering wheel.
10. If you are going out for a Holiday party make sure your designated driver doesn’t drink, and has driven in inclement weather. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when it come to alcohol-impaired driving in a fatal car crash, men are the drivers four times more often than women. Over 800 people lost their lives in DUI related accidents last December. Let’s see if we can keep it under that number in 2016.
Let’s be careful out there Folks.