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Winter Driving Tips

Commuters, Car and Van Poolers Should Focus on Your Safety

Adapted from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

When the chilly temperatures of winter set in, will your vehicle be ready for the cold? We live in a part of the country that experiences inclement weather, such as heavy rain, snow and ice.  And we have a large number of car-and-vanpoolers in our region.  Inclement weather can have a paralyzing effect on your daily commute. Are you prepared to drive in those conditions? Planning and preventative maintenance are important year-round—but especially when it comes to winter driving. 

BEFORE YOU GO 

Get Your Car Serviced – No one wants their car to break down in any season, but especially not in cold, icy or snowy winter weather. Start the season off right by ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition. 

Know Your Car – Every vehicle handles differently; this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Take time now to learn how your vehicle handles under winter weather driving conditions. 

Before driving your vehicle, clean snow, ice or dirt from the windows, the forward sensors, headlights, tail lights, backup camera and other sensors around the vehicle.

For electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, minimize the drain on the battery. If the vehicle has a thermal heating pack for the battery, plug your vehicle in whenever it’s not in use. Pre-heat the passenger compartment before you unplug your vehicle in the morning. 

VEHICLE SAFETY CHECKLIST  

Stock Your Vehicle 

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, such as cleaning off your windshield, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency. Keep the following in your vehicle: 

Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper; abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow; jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers; blankets for protection from the cold; and a cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas). 

Plan Your Travel and Route 

Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather. Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic. Don’t rush! Allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Plan to leave early if necessary. Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time. 

ON THE ROAD 

Keep your gas tank close to full, even with a hybrid-electric vehicle. If you get stuck in a traffic jam or in snow, you might need more fuel than you anticipated to get home or to keep warm. If road conditions are hazardous, avoid driving if possible. Wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle. 

On longer trips, plan enough time to stop to stretch, get something to eat ,return calls or text messages, and change drivers or rest if you feel drowsy. 

Avoid Risky Driving Behaviors 

Do not text or engage in any activities that may distract you while driving. Obey all posted speed limits, but drive even slower if necessary for weather conditions. 

Driving in Winter Conditions 

Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you. Know whether your vehicle has an antilock brake system and learn how to use it properly. Antilock brake systems prevent your wheels from locking up during braking. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if you feel your wheels starting to lock up. 

Navigating Around Snow Plows 

Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside it. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently. The road behind an active snow plow is safer to drive on. If you find yourself behind a snow plow, stay behind it or use caution when passing. When you are driving behind a snow plow, don’t follow or stop too closely. A snow plow operator’s field-of-vision is limited; if you can’t see the mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Also, materials used to de-ice the road could hit your vehicle. Snow plows can throw up a cloud of snow that can reduce your visibility to zero in less time than you can react. Never drive into a snow cloud – it can conceal vehicles or hazards. 

What To Do in a Winter Emergency 

If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, follow these safety rules: Stay with your car and don’t over exert yourself; Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light turned on. To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm. 

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