Winter is once again on the doorstep. That means it’s time to get ready to drive a little bit differently. For the record, the NHTSA says that 17% of all vehicle crashes occur in winter weather conditions. That may not seem like much, but it still adds up to thousands of injuries and deaths every year. Do yourself a favor and do everything you can to avoid being a statistic this winter. Below are eight car safety tips to get you started.
Your tires are the connection point between the rest of your car and the road. Having enough tread to maintain contact is important year-round, but never so important as during winter weather. This first tip is simple enough: check your tire treads. Make sure you have enough tread to be safe. If your tires are worn, have them replaced.
Few things are as dangerous for winter driving as not being able to see out the windshield. Road salt makes it difficult to get a clear view of what’s ahead. If you have sun in front of you, the combination of glare and dirty windows can actually blind you. So what is the second tip? To keep your wiper fluid topped off. Top off the tank every couple of days.
Along with topping off the wiper fluid, check your wiper blades. If they don’t wipe clean with every stroke, replace them. In fact, replace them with blades that are designed to handle winter weather. There’s nothing more important than being able to see out the windshield.
You’ll need a little extra distance to stop when roads are snowy or icy. Even rain and slush can be problematic during the winter, so make sure you leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. Plan on at least several car lengths.
Speaking of stopping during winter weather, it’s important t0 know how your braking system works. If you have conventional brakes, the best way to slow down and stop during bad weather is to gently pump the brake pedal over a greater distance. Slamming on the brakes could send you into an uncontrollable slide. If you have anti-lock brakes however, pumping is a bad idea. Gently depress the brake pedal and let the computer system do the rest.
Professional drivers know a little trick that makes it easier to slow down and stop on snowy roads. Here it is: put the car in neutral as you approach the stopping point. That way, the brakes are not having to deal with both momentum and engine power. Putting the car in neutral makes it easier to stop while still maintaining control of the car.
It’s important that all of your lights are working when the weather gets bad. Check your headlights, taillights, brake lights, and emergency flashers. Replace any bulbs that are not working.
In the event you are stranded in your car during winter weather, your safety could be in jeopardy. Pack a safety kit that you keep in the car all winter. It should include a blanket or two, some canned or boxed food, water, a flashlight and basic first aid supplies.
If you live somewhere subject to nasty winters, you’re about to embark on one of the most challenging driving seasons of the year. Be prepared and be safe. We all want you around come spring.