Tips for safer winter driving

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Winter driving.

Slow it down! Image: net_efekt/Flickr/CC BY

Driving is such a normal part of our lives that we often forget the challenges and risks it involves in the best of circumstances. But winter snow and ice takes those challenges to new levels. Even the most seasoned and cautious of drivers needs to keep in mind the challenges of driving at this time of year. Over-confidence or lack of it can lead to hazardous or even fatal consequences. And while it is not possible to eliminate all risks on icy roads, keeping these simple tips in mind at all times may help minimize them.

Be prepared

Winterize your car. Install winter or all-season tires, inflated to the proper pressure. Top off the anti-freeze. Replace wiper blades and fill windshield washer fluid. If your car has rear wheel drive, put some sand bags in the back for weight. They may come in handy if you get stuck somewhere, too.

While you’re at it, it’s not a bad idea to prepare for emergencies. Have blankets, a flashlight, batteries and a first-aid kit on board. And a fully-charged cellphone is a must.

Slow down

It should be obvious, but this tip is all-too-often forgotten or ignored. It can not be overstressed. It is the single most important thing to keep in mind when driving on slick or unpredictable surfaces. The slower you go, the less chance you have of sliding or skidding. And if your vehicle does slide or skid, you have a lot more time to react.

Driving too fast is the number one cause of accidents in winter conditions.

Don’t tailgate

This is always a good idea, but it is especially important in icy conditions when your stopping distance is far greater than in optimal weather.

Pass snow plows cautiously

Snow plows have a limited field of vision. Stay well behind them until it is definitely safe to pass them or until they pull over.

Don’t use cruise control

Cruise control is a bad idea in icy conditions because if your vehicle goes into a skid, the vehicle may accelerate in order to maintain a consistent speed. At that point, you have little or no time to react and will likely lose control of the vehicle.

Don’t rely on four-wheel drive

All-wheel-drive vehicles can breed over-confidence. Remember, they do not stop or steer any better on ice than two-wheel drive vehicles.

Steer into skids

If your car does slide, the temptation is to crank the wheel the other direction. But the safest way to steer our of a skid is to steer in the direction of the skid and accelerate slightly. Turning against the skid will only send your vehicle more out of control.


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