Winter driving can be challenging, especially for new and inexperienced drivers. The cold weather, icy roads, and reduced visibility can make it more difficult to stay safe on the roads. As we begin to touch on this subject, there is not enough that can be said to cover this topic. Most winter driving skills come as a result of common sense and years of experience. The worst thing we can do is tell our kids or our new adult drivers how terrible it is to drive in the snow. We want to keep all our conversations on a positive note.
Most importantly I’m forever telling students you need to be smarter than the snow conditions and those drivers around us making lots of careless mistakes. We can take every step to be safe, but the problem comes from those around us. When we’re driving in snowy conditions, as a rule I tell my students if you think you have enough room in front of you, I tell them to double the space they have. I encourage every one of my students to always remember that when it comes to winter driving, you should give yourself extra space. We hear this from childhood through our teen years. I encourage every student to take this to the extreme. Give yourself more space than you think you will need. Another way to think of this would be to be aware that when driving in winter conditions always consider being able to stop if an unexpected thing happens leaving you with no reaction time. Do your very best to keep enough space so you can take your foot off the gas and coast your car to a slow down. This will help you turn it into a smooth stop. Have enough following distance that when brake lights come on in front of your car you can come off the gas with enough safe distance to avoid the need to go to the brakes. This doesn’t mean you won’t need to use the brakes. Generally, coasting gives you more reaction time. When we have a safe following distance and don’t need to hit the brakes, you can reduce the number of times your car could skid out of control.
Always drive your car at a speed you can control no matter what the conditions may be. If the speed limit is 55, it doesn’t mean we can safely control the car in bad conditions. Don’t be afraid to slow down your car to a safe speed for the current conditions.
When preparing for winter driving, consider these items whether you’re a new driver or experienced. Whether you’re commuting or traveling for the day. Always bring extra warm clothes beyond what you think you will need. This is for unexpected things that could go wrong, such as running out of gas, or leaving the roadway and getting stuck. No one ever thinks this will happen to them. You should always avoid running out of gas. A good rule to follow is to check your gas level before leaving. We should always do this, but it’s especially important in the winter.
When traveling in very bad conditions, and it’s not possible to avoid the trip, it is a good idea to let a family member or friend know when you expect to arrive at your destination. This may seem like a silly idea, but I have always done this. Doing this allows you and those around to have peace of mind when roads are bad.
Always take the time to completely clear all windows, side mirrors, and all surfaces of your car. This can both be hazardous to us but also those around us. This becomes a visual issue by not being able to see through windows but also the blowing snow you will create for those around you.
When driving on icy roads, be extra cautious. Approach curves and turns slowly and avoid sudden steering maneuvers. If you start to slide, don’t panic. Take your foot off the accelerator and avoid going to the brakes and steer in the direction you want to go. In a future blog I plan to discuss ABS brakes.
Winter driving requires your full attention, so avoid any distractions that can take your eyes off the road. Put away your cell phone before putting the car in gear, avoid eating or drinking, Remember, winter driving requires extra caution and patience. By following these tips and practicing safe driving habits, you can reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a safer trip to your destination. Stay alert, stay prepared, and stay safe on the winter roads!
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