Falling snow can be quite beautiful this time of year, however it can also wreak havoc on the roads. While no one enjoys driving in snowy or slippery conditions, there are steps you can take to help improve your safety with these winter driving tips:
Preparing Your Car:
- Take your car to a mechanic and get the following things checked: antifreeze level, battery, oil, thermostat, heater, brakes and defroster.
- Check to make sure your tires have adequate tread. If the treads are worn, replace them. Better yet, exchange them for a set of snow tires, which have treads that provide better traction and are equipped to handle extreme winter driving conditions.
- Keep the gas tank at least half full throughout the winter. This will reduce condensation, making your vehicle easier to start on cold mornings.
Packing Your Car:
- Blanket: In Iowa, weather can be unpredictable. Temperatures can drop quickly and you’ll need a good blanket to stay warm. Keep an extra pair of gloves and a hat in your trunk as well in case of an emergency.
- Snow Shovel & Ice Scraper: Keep a folding snow shovel and ice scraper in your kit in case you need to dig your car out of a ditch or snow bank.
- Flashlight: Be sure to keep a small but bright flash light in your glove box in case you get stranded at night. You will also want to make sure you have fresh new batteries in your kit as well.
- Cell Phone Car Charger: Put an extra cell phone charger in your glove box! Too often do we become overconfident on the roads knowing we are only a phone call away from help…BUT what if it dies? Then what do you do?
- Emergency Contact Numbers: If you are relying on your cell phone to be the storage unit for all your emergency info, just think what would happen if your phone dies or if you got in a car accident and your phone is damaged. Just to be safe, write down all of your emergency contact info on a piece of paper and store them in both your glove box and your wallet.
- Important Documents: Proof of insurance, vehicle registration and owner’s manual. Easy enough right?
- Non Perishable Snacks: Keep plenty of bottled water and nonperishable, nutritious food items, like energy or protein bars, in your kit to keep you hydrated in case you are stranded or have to wait a long time for assistance. Check expiration dates periodically and replace these items as needed.
- Sand or Kitty Litter: If you find yourself stuck in snowy slush, non-clumping cat litter can be a lifesaver (or at least a timesaver). Pour it in the path of your wheels to help get traction.
- Jumper Cable
- First Aid Kit
Driving Your Car:
- Clear snow and ice off your car – including windows, mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof and trunk.
- Drive with your headlights on, and be sure to keep them clean to improve visibility
- Keep your windshield washer reservoir full, and make sure your car has wiper blades that are in good condition.
- Remember that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads covered in snow and ice. You should reduce your speed and increase your following distance as road conditions and visibility worsen.
- Be cautious on bridges and overpasses as they are commonly the first areas to become icy.
- Avoid passing snow plows and sand trucks. The drivers can have limited visibility, and the road in front of them could be worse than the road behind.
- Drive Slow! Your boss will understand if you are a few minutes late due to winter weather conditions. Plan ahead and monitor weather conditions by checking local news stations the night before.
- If you must travel during a snowstorm or in blizzard conditions, be sure to let a relative, friend or coworker know where you are headed and your expected arrival time. Avoid the temptation to check or be on your phone while driving as all of your attention should be on arriving safely.
Just remember, as important as it is to have your car tuned and have a winter survival kit in your trunk, it’s equally imperative to know how to protect yourself while driving in the snow and ice. Follow these tips and you will feel safer and more prepared this winter!