Winter Driving Tips for Smart Drivers

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Would you be surprised to learn that each year, on average, more than 5,000 Americans lose their lives in weather-related car crashes? Additionally, 418,000 individuals are injured due to weather-related car accidents, according to weather.gov. 

 While there are some accidents that are unavoidable, there are some things that we can do to better prepare for and navigate Mother Nature while on the road including some of the following:

Decide if a trip during poor weather conditions can be delayed. Sure, you may want to make it to the family gathering on time, but is braving a storm really worth the danger?

Prepare your vehicle with working windshield wipers and proper fluid levels. We all know that visibility is key in storms, and having working wipers and fluid to clear your windshield will ensure you can see the road.

 Properly inflate tires. Tires that are inflated to the appropriate levels create better traction on the road and improve fuel economy.

Consider a half-tank of fuel to be your ‘empty’ level. This is a good rule of thumb anyway to make sure that you don’t run out of gas, but this is particularly good during the winter months when slow going traffic is more likely. You don’t want to be left on the road with no gas in dangerous weather conditions. 

Make others aware of your travel plans, routes, and timelines.

If traveling beyond your daily commute, dial 511 for up-to-date traffic and road conditions. Every state has a 511 option, so use it to learn.

Carry an emergency kit in your car that includes many of the following items: cell phone and charger, blankets, flashlight and extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a sharp knife, fresh high-calorie foods, extra clothing, tissues, dry matches and a container to melt snow for drinking, a bag of sand or kitty litter for traction, shovel, window scraper/brush, small tool kit, a tow strap, jumper cables, candles and matches for heat, and a compass and paper maps in case your cell phone is in a dead area.

The Utah Highway Patrol also offers these ideas to consider:

Always buckle up, but especially so during poor weather travel.

Folks who are driving too fast are the primary reason for crashes in winter. Slow down and get to your destination safely.

Realize that the posted speed limit on signs are reflective of dry and ideal driving conditions. Wet, snowy, or icy conditions require an adjustment on your part to travel at less than ideal speed limits.

Accelerate more slowly, brake gently at greater distances, and avoid turning quickly to better maintain control of your vehicle.

Give yourself way more room with the car you are following – this greater following distance is a gift when used properly, so use it.

Use extra caution when changing lanes. The snowy and slushy conditions can form crests in the roadway that can cause you to lose control. Avoid those obstacles when possible.

Winter coats can interfere with car seat safety. It is much safer for the little ones to be safely belted into their car seats, THEN place blankets or coats around them. Winter coats can actually leave enough room for the child to be totally knocked out of their car seats at point of impact. Pack the warmth around them, not WITH them.

All-Wheel drive and 4×4’s may have superior traction in poor weather, but those systems don’t help whatsoever with stopping and turning issues. Don’t become a victim of this false sense of security.

Black ice causes many accidents. You should know that black ice often appears as a wet patch rather than a spot of ice on the roads.

Ice can form on bridges before it forms on a roadway because the freezing weather has more surface area, above and below the bridge itself, to cause wet areas to freeze and ice over.

If you get a chance to travel behind a snow plow or group of snow plows working the roadways, that is a very safe place to travel. Just be sure to increase your following distance as you enjoy the safety.

Don’t use cruise control. Roads and weather conditions are constantly changing in poor weather – YOU need to have complete control.

Wildlife can be much more active after winter storms as they search for food. Anticipate their needs and adjust your driving accordingly.

Finally – Give yourself more time to get to your destination. If you short yourself on time, it seems as if you hit every obstacle on your path. When you allow plenty of time, you’ll usually get there early, but with much less stress and you’ll likely make better driving choices along the way. Just take it slow in any snowy weather travels.

Kevin Jennings
Kevin Jennings
Husband to one - Dad to six - Grandpa to five - Friend and Neighbor to all.

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