Drive Safely in Winter Weather

winter driving

During the winter months, poor road conditions, decreased visibility and the stress that cold weather puts on your car can combine to create a treacherous driving environment. Before you head into the cold, heed these tips for safe winter driving:

  • To avoid a breakdown, the National Weather Service recommends winterizing your car: Check the battery, antifreeze, wipers, lights, heater, defroster and tires. Repair them as necessary.
  • Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in your car to remove snow and ice.
  • If you see snow, take it slow. The same goes for ice, fog and other forms of precipitation. Slowing down makes it easier for you to maneuver and stop when necessary.
  • Accelerate slowly, increase following distances, and approach potentially icy bridges and overpasses with extra caution, advises the Texas Department of Transportation.
  • Brake earlier than is usually necessary, and apply the brakes gently to gauge their traction.
  • Be prepared in case you get stranded. Store the number for roadside assistance in your cell phone. Also, carry emergency supplies such as blankets, nonperishable food, water, a flashlight and road flares.

Back Up with Caution

Driving straight ahead is dangerous enough. Going backward only compounds the potential for an accident. Driving in reverse is perilous because it disorients the driver, according to the National Safety Commission. You have to take one hand off the wheel and crane your neck to see behind you while continuing to monitor what’s happening in front of you. Avoiding reverse altogether (make a legal U-turn instead) is the commission's first piece of advice. If you must drive in reverse:

  • Make sure the space is free of obstacles and pedestrians before backing up; small children and pets can be especially hard to see.
  • Stay focused. Put conversations with passengers on hold and hang up the cell phone.
  • Make sure you're comfortable with the dimensions of your vehicle, especially if you're driving a larger car than you're used to.
  • Check your brake lights and reverse lights regularly to make sure they're working.
  • Never back up more than you need to allow you to drive safely forward.
  • Go slow!

Check Vehicle Fluids

Maintaining proper fluid levels can add thousands of miles to the life of your vehicle, according to the auto information site Oil is perhaps your auto's most important fluid. Don't neglect to change the oil regularly, and consult your owner's manual for instructions on how to check and refill the oil on your own. Also check other fluids, such as brake fluid, transmission fluid, engine coolant and windshield-wiper fluid, and refill when low.

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