What do experts recommend for driving in snow?
The experts say don’t drive in the snow, stay at home. However, if you must venture out here are some tips to keep you as safe as possible on your journey.
Venturing out into severe weather is not for the faint of heart, even for experienced drivers, and it is recommended that you just stay home. According to AAA, “winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter.”
However, if you absolutely must get in your car to travel there are safety measures that you can take to avoid becoming another winter weather driving statistic.
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Be prepared for adverse conditions
When the temperature drops it can become extremely dangerous outside. Even though you may be warm in your car, you should be prepared for any possible eventuality. First and foremost, your car should be in tip-top shape to venture out into the harsh elements. This means ensuring that your car is safe to drive in the wintery conditions.
Especially for snowy and icy conditions, have your tires properly inflated and make sure the tread is in good condition. When travelling it is recommended that you always keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
You should have safety cold-weather gear in your car should you get stuck in the snow or have unforeseen car troubles. This includes warm clothing and blankets to keep you warm, using the cars heater may not be an option and can be dangerous. Also pack a flashlight, ice scraper, reflective jacket and flare.
Take along medications you may need, extra food and water, as well as a candle should it be necessary to melt snow for water. And make sure that your cell phone is charged.
How to drive on snowy and icy roads
Sounding like a broken record, if you can, stay home. But if you insist on venturing out, be cautious and don’t over-estimate your abilities. Check the weather forecast before you hit the road as well as informing family or friends of your route and estimated time of arrival. When starting up your car, don’t let it warm up in an enclosed space to avoid the build up of carbon monoxide.
Out on the road, drive slowly as you’ll have less traction when driving on snow and ice. Do not use your cruise control, you should be in control of adjusting the speed of your car. Avoid jack rabbit starts or sudden stops to avoid losing traction and skidding. Give yourself extra distance between the car in front of you and slow down ahead of time when coming to stops.
Given that it takes more to get a car moving once again from a full stop on slippery surfaces, AAA recommends that when approaching a traffic light, if possible slow down enough that you can keep rolling until it changes to avoid coming to a full stop. And know your brakes, don’t slam on them but use firm, steady pressure.
When approaching a hill, to avoid having to apply extra gas and risk your wheels spinning, build up a little inertia prior to reaching the hill and let it carry you to the top. As you approach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and go downhill slowly. Try to avoid stopping while going uphill, getting your car moving up a slippery hill again can be extremely difficult.
What to do if you get stuck in the snow
Should you find that you get stuck in the snow, don’t panic. The safest thing you can do is stay with your car. It will provide shelter from the elements and make it easier for rescue crews to find you.
Even if you are prepared for an Artic expedition, going out into a blizzard is extremely dangerous as you can get disoriented easily, even more so at night. Even with several layers you can succumb to exposure if you are out in the elements for an extended period of time.
Before getting out of your car to check your situation, bundle up and put on a reflective jacket. Make sure that your car’s tail pipe is not obstructed by ice, mud or snow. This is important to avoid deadly carbon monoxide from seeping into the passenger compartment.
Make your car visible by tying a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or at the top of a rolled up window as a distress signal. Experts recommend keeping your car’s dome light on at night, if possible. “It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.”
Do not run the engine for long periods of time, only briefly to run the heater, if you must, in order to stay warm. On the one hand to conserve fuel, but more importantly, even if your exhaust pipe is clear, carbon monoxide can still build up in the interior of a stationary car in the open. Better if you can get by using anything available that you brought with you to insulate yourself from the cold.
Finally, if you try to dig yourself out of the snow, do not over exert yourself, “listen to your body and stop if you become tired.”