It’s here. The inevitable ice and snow that comes with winter and covers our roads and clogs up our highways has arrived. With the snow comes the “fun” of winter driving: high winds, icy roads, reduced visibility, and clogged roads because of accidents and rollovers. How do you stay on the road—and not in the ditch? Here are some of our top tips for staying on the road while navigating through the winter weather.
Watch weather reports before you leave so you know what you’re in for, and can hit the road earlier if conditions look problematic. Even if you’re completely confident in your winter driving skills, pack a cell phone and emergency winter kit just in case you get in an accident or need to dig out your vehicle in a parking lot (find out what to pack in your emergency kit in our recent blog post).
Make sure your brakes are ready for winter driving.
Inevitably, you’ll need your brakes to stop suddenly because of an out-of-control vehicle or to repeatedly stop when traffic gets backed up in the winter weather. Make sure you, and your car, are ready for it. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to make sure your brakes have plenty of pad left, or if your brakes are showing one of these signs that it’s time for replacement.
Make sure you can see.
If your car is covered in ice and snow, take your time cleaning it off. You don’t want to reduce your already poor visibility from snow blowing off your car while driving. If your windshield wipers are worn, get them replaced ASAP so you can see the road even when the wind is high and snow is piling up.
Lower your speed.
Even if you have four wheel drive, lowering your speeds during wintery conditions is a must. Driving slower helps you adjust to road conditions—and to dealing with other drivers who are struggling in the ice and snow. Plan accordingly, and know your traveling time is going to be longer when it snows and ices.
Double your normal stopping distance.
If you have to brake, start applying pressure to your brake pedal earlier than you normally would on dry pavement; it’s going to take twice as long to safely stop. Because of that reason, leave extra space between you and other cars when driving. If possible, try to avoid sudden stops and sudden accelerations on slippery roads.
Put snow tires on.
Shop for snow tires, and get them mounted, before the next winter storm hits. Snow tires give you the added traction you need on icy roads. If you don’t want to deal with mounting and remounting your snow tires, buy a second set of rims for your car. When the temperature drops and snow arrives, all you have to do is take off your rims with your summer tires and put the rims with your mounted snow tires on. In the spring, when the temperature is consistently above 50 and the snow has melted, you can put your rims with the summer tires back on—without the hassle of mounting and balancing. If you have any questions about snow tires, don’t be afraid to ask questions BEFORE you’re stuck in the ditch during a winter storm.