The winter presents a series of unique challenges for drivers. Dropping temperatures affect our vehicles and roads, as well as the way we feel and interact with the world around us.
Tennessee and Kentucky usually experience fairly mild winters. We don’t often experience the massive snowfalls that are seen by our neighbors of the north. However, we still see our share of icy roads, and yes even some snow every here and there.
But even though these conditions make it more difficult to drive, we can safely travel through most conditions by keeping some best practices in mind.
Here are 9 driving tips to keep you safe this winter:
- Warm Your Car Up Outdoors
- Slow Down
- Fuel Up
- Avoid Cruise Control when Slick
- Be Aware of Anti-Lock Brakes
- Check Your Tires
- Don’t Follow Too Close
- Keep Supplies in the Car
- Stay Home if Possible
1. Warm Your Car Up Outdoors
It’s common practice to give your vehicle a little time to warm up before hopping in and leaving. This helps make it a little more comfortable for the people in the car, while also helping the machine itself get ready to roll.
Doing this in a closed garage, however, can create dangerous collections of chemicals from the fumes such as carbon monoxide.
Be mindful if this is legal in your area. Some regulations prevent this.
2. Slow Down
You’re not going to be able to maneuver as well as you normally can. Roads become much more slippery in the winter — particularly when snow and ice are involved.
Your momentum is going to make you lose control, so counteract that by reducing your rate of speed. It’s going to take a little longer to get where you’re going, but at least you won’t have to call a car crash attorney because you slid through a corner.
3. Fuel Up
You should maintain a minimum of half a tank of fuel at all times. This provides a couple of benefits.
First, it can prevent damage to your fuel pump and fuel lines. This simple tactic can save you from expensive repairs in the future.
Second, it ensures you never run out of gas. This would be bad at any time of year, but potentially dangerous in the winter.
4. Avoid Cruise Control when Slick
Cruise control knows how to maintain a constant speed. It doesn’t know how to account for slick surfaces and the ramifications of tires losing their grip.
Snow and ice will occasionally cause your tires to spin. Cruise control will only cause your wheels to spin even more, making you lose control of the vehicle and cause a crash.
5. Be Aware of Anti-Lock Brakes
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) come standard in a wide range of cars these days. But somebody that’s never activated their ABS might think something is wrong when it kicks in.
The system aims to help you maintain control in the event of strong braking. Traditional brakes can lock up the tires, while ABS is a stuttered system that helps retain your ability to steer. Be familiar with your brakes so you aren’t caught off guard.
6. Check Your Tires
The tread on your tires will have a great impact on the amount of control you’ll have while driving on slick surfaces. The easiest trick to see how your tires are doing is to grab a penny.
Keep Lincoln’s face toward you as you stick the penny head-first into the tread of your tire. Do you see the top of his head? If so, you need new tires.
The air pressure of your tires is also important. Check this when the tire is cold. There should be a chart on the inside of the driver’s side door or in the car’s manual for the proper PSI.
7. Don’t Follow Too Close
Give yourself more space. It’s going to be difficult to stop no matter how quickly you apply the brakes.
Cars should generally give the vehicle in front of them about a three-second distance. This means that if they were to come to a complete stop, you’d have three seconds to react, brake, or move around them.
Double this for slippery conditions. Give yourself about six seconds to react to anything in front of you.
8. Keep Supplies in the Car
It’s always best to be prepared for the worst. And when it comes to winter driving, the worst-case scenario would be to be in a wreck and unable to go somewhere warm.
Prepare for this by keeping a blanket in the trunk of your car and maybe even some food and water. Include some extra clothes that can keep you warm as well as a flashlight.
9. Stay Home if Possible
Be aware of the weather forecast. Winter weather can be extremely dangerous when it gets really bad. Projected blizzards and ice storms are sure to make driving conditions difficult to navigate.If at all possible, avoid traveling on days that have a negative forecast. This pulls you out of harm’s way and eliminates any chance of experiencing a car wreck because of winter weather conditions.