Winter driving is a completely different experience than driving during any other season. Luckily, many of the preventive measures you take for each type of driving condition are the same. Before you start your drive, be sure to check all of the following vehicle safety points.
Brakes: Check both vehicle brakes and trailer brakes for effectiveness.
Tires: Before you drive in snow, ice, and slush, you need to make sure your tires have tread. Balanced, rotated, and aligned tires will help you reduce the possibility of bald spots. You should use special snow tires in the winter or put chains on. Since cold weather helps to decrease your tire pressure, make sure you have enough air in your tires.
Lights: Make sure your headlights, taillights, brake lights, reverse lights, and turn signals are all working properly. In heavy snow fall it is impossible to guess the intentions of other drivers, so any lights that indicate behaviors (like stopping and turning) are extra important.
Windshield: For winter weather and windshield visibility you need a properly functioning heater and defroster. Also, make sure to monitor the health of your windshield wipers. Ice and snow can make them hard and cracked, so be sure to test them before you begin driving.
Items to Carry
There are certain necessities you should carry when you drive in winter weather. These include:
- Scraper: Carry a scraper with you so that you can clean your windshield before driving. You should also carry de-icer fluid.
- Sand: Carrying sand or cat litter with you will give you something to throw on top of snow or ice to give you added traction if you get stuck.
- Chains: If you do not have snow tires, carry chains with you for your vehicle and trailer tires.
- Rags: If your defroster should stop working, you will need something with which to wipe your windows. Carry rags for this possibility.
Follow at a safe distance: Ice and snow make for difficult braking and frequent skidding. Maintain adequate distance from the cars ahead of you so that you have an extra cushion of space in which to control your vehicle. Although you might normally follow the three-second rule in good weather, winter weather requires that you increase that to a six or nine-second rule.
Observe appropriate braking procedures: Remember, if you do not have anti-lock brakes you should pump when you need to stop but anti-lock brakes should never be pumped.
Never forget to wear your seatbelt: Your seatbelt can mean the difference between walking away from an accident with a few scratches and not walking away at all. You should wear your seatbelt no matter what the weather conditions are, but with the additional risk of accident in winter weather, seatbelt wearing becomes even more important.
Taking the time to learn and follow these guidelines will make winter weather easier to drive in and will lower your risk of having a preventable accident.