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Winter Driving Tips
Slick roads, limited visibility and freezing temperatures can make winter driving a nerve-wracking experience. While technological advances like traction control have made cars safer than ever, the National Safety Council has a number of driving tips to help keep you safe in winter weather.
First, always check the weather before you leave. If the weather is very cold, you should warm up your car before you start driving. Always warm your car up in an open area, not in an enclosed area like a garage, where dangerous carbon monoxide fumes can accumulate.
Make sure your car is ready for winter driving. Have your car inspected by a mechanic to ensure all of its systems are operating correctly. Systems that are particularly important for winter driving are the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts, spark plugs, filters, PCV valve, distributor, battery, tires (wear and air pressure), and antifreeze systems.
Outfit your car with a winter safety kit, which should include a shovel, tow and tire chains, salt or cat litter (for melting snow and regaining traction), windshield cleaner, ice scraper, snow brush, matches in a waterproof container, and warm clothing or blankets. In addition, you should have a year-round emergency kit with a spare tire, wheel wrench, jack, jumper cables, tool kit, first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, reflective triangle or flares, compass, scissors, string or cord, and nonperishable food.
Once you are on the road, AAA offers these tips for driving in snow and ice:
If despite all this you still run off the road and get stranded, do not try to extract your vehicle from the snow. Tie a bright-colored cloth to the antenna or stick it in a rolled-up window to create a distress signal. Use flares to make your car visible to passersby, and ensure that your exhaust pipe is clear. If it looks like you will be stranded for a long time, try running your engine for a while to warm up the car, then shutting it off for a while so you don’t run out of gas.
- Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
- Avoid using your cruise control or parking brake in wintry weather.
- Look and steer toward where you want to go.
- Slow down your acceleration and deceleration. And in general, slow down.
- Increase your following distance to accommodate for the likelihood that it will take you longer to stop.
- Try not to stop while driving uphill.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Know what kind of brakes you have. If you have antilock brakes, press down firmly and don’t let up, even if you feel the breaks pulsing or hear an unusual sound. If you have traditional brakes, you might have to pump them to come to a stop.
Finally, the best advice might be not to drive at all in extreme winter weather if you can avoid it. If you must go out, make sure your cell phone is fully charged and someone knows when you left, where you are going, and the route you are taking to get there.