Winter Driving Tips

The winter season conjures images of snowmen, mittens and hot cocoa. If you are anything like us here at Teens Drive Smart, you’re looking forward to spontaneous snowball fights and snow days, but while we are excited for winter weather, we know that this time of year can be especially dangerous for drivers. We hate to be the Scrooges of the holiday season, but studies show that 70 percent of winter storm deaths are automobile related. Rouge snowballs, icy roads and poor visibility can really put a damper on what should be a joyous and happy time of year.

So, go easy on those icy roads, check the weather forecast regularly and check out these tips to keep your winter season holly jolly.

Preventive Maintenance

Ready for a big SAT word? PROACTIVE. We will use it in a sentence: Be proactive about vehicle maintenance because winter only magnifies existing problems like pings, hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling. Make sure your car is mechanically sound before the temperature dips and the streets get icy.

Emergency Survival Kit

Are you that person who keeps all of the essentials in your backpack or purse? Do you love that feeling you get when a friend needs something - like a breath mint or hand sanitizer - and you are able to quickly hand over that item? Then it should only be natural that you prepare your car for emergency needs as well.

Instead of your backpack, use the trunk of your car as a storage place for emergency items. Important things to have on hand are:

  • A properly inflated spare tire
  • An ice scraper
  • Windshield de-icer
  • A flashlight
  • Flares
  • Long jumper cables
  • A small shovel
  • A blanket
  • Extra clothes
  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Cell phone car charger

The catch here is that storing too many items can weigh down your car and decrease your fuel efficiency. Keep the essentials as compact as possible.

Tire TLC

Take care of your tires. Winter driving conditions can be dangerous and make stopping your car difficult. Once it gets cold, tire tread and pressure should be checked weekly. We know that checking your tire pressure once a week sounds like a lot, but to put this in perspective, you probably check your Facebook and Twitter account a few times a day. If you can make the time to check your notifications and re-tweets, you can make the time to check your tires.

Under- or over-inflation of your tires during snowy road conditions will not allow the tread to meet the road surface the way it was designed and consequently will reduce gripping action. Kind of like when you run on a slick wood floor in new, fluffy socks. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider installing winter tires, which are specially designed to grip slick roads.

Drive Smart

Ever wish you could have the last few seconds of your life back so that you can take back a stupid thing you said or did? Well, you’re not alone because studies have shown that 80 percent of all accidents can be prevented with only one more second to react. In many situations, this one second can be gained by looking far enough down the road to identify problems before you become a part of them. Use common sense during tricky road conditions. Reduce your speed and increase your following distance in hazardous winter weather.

Getting Un-Stuck

If you get stuck in the snow, and we all get stuck in the snow from time-to-time, don’t spin your tires - this can overheat them and possibly cause damage. Use sand, gravel, kitty litter, an asphalt shingle or other gritty item to help your tires gain traction.

If you can move a night trip to daylight hours, do so. Not only is visibility better during daylight, but if your car is stalled or stuck, you are more likely to receive prompt assistance during the daytime.

Snow On, Snow Off

Try to remove ice and snow from your shoes before getting in your car. As snow and ice melt they can create moisture build-up, causing the windows to fog on the inside of the car. Plus, do you really want all that snow and rock salt messing up your interior?

Also, be sure to scrape the ice and snow from every window of the vehicle and exterior rear view mirrors, not just a small patch on the windshield. You want all of the visibility you can get! Don’t forget to clean the headlights and brake lights, too.