Helpful Tips for Safe Winter Driving
In Maryland and throughout the Northeast, driving becomes much more difficult during the winter months. Depending on where you live, you can expect to get at least a couple feet of snow overall, and there will also be many days when you may have to deal with freezing rain and ice. Driving on snow and ice is far different than driving on dry roads, and you need to be prepared to navigate wet and slippery roads safely.
As the snow flies and the roads get more slippery, there are several things motorists should do in order to stay safe when they drive:
Get your Vehicle Winterized: As we get into the dead of winter, it is very important that you have your car fully winterized and ready for the conditions. Ideally, this should be done in the fall before winter starts, but if you have not done so already, now is the time to winterize your vehicle. First of all, if your car is due for an oil change, get this done as soon as possible. You may also want to consider getting a tune up. Also make sure to have your brakes checked to ensure that there is plenty of wear left on them; and change your wiper blades if they are worn and leave streaks on your windshield. Finally, before you head out, be sure all of your fluids are topped off and you have at least a half a tank of gas.
Assemble a Winter Car Emergency Kit: Even with your vehicle in tip top condition, there is always a chance that you may get stranded somewhere. If that were to happen, you want to make sure you have everything you need in order to deal with the situation. Here are some essential items that you should have in your winter emergency kit:
- An ice scraper;
- Jumper cables;
- A flashlight;
- A warm blanket;
- Road flares;
- Kitty litter (to give your tires traction if you are stuck on ice or in the snow);
- A first-aid kit; and
- Knowledge of how to change your tire.
If you have emergency towing through AAA or your auto insurance carrier (and you definitely should have this, especially if you live in a cold weather state), have their phone number readily available. Put it in your contact list in your cell phone, and just in case, keep it written down and placed somewhere in your vehicle that is easily accessible.
Allow Extra Travel Time: The last thing you want to be doing on a difficult weather day is to be in a hurry. It is hard enough to drive safely at regular speeds, and you do not want to be in a situation where you are tempted to drive faster than it is safe to under the current conditions or otherwise drive aggressively. Give yourself lots of extra time, so you can move at a comfortable speed and focus on staying safe out there.
Accelerate and Decelerate Slowly: Picking up on the last point, one of the most important things to keep in mind when driving on snow and ice is to accelerate and decelerate your vehicle slowly. Rapid acceleration or braking can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, which greatly increases the chances of an auto accident. Stay calm and accelerate and decelerate slowly and carefully, and make sure you are always going at a speed that allows you to stay in control.
Stay Focused on the Road: When you are driving in inclement weather, you need to keep distractions to a bare minimum. Stay alert, focus on the road, and stay off of your cell phone. Whatever text or call you need to make can wait until you get to where you are going, or you have a chance to safely pull over. You may also want to turn off your car radio and keep your conversations with passengers to a minimum. Finally, be sure to get enough sleep before driving in winter weather. For most adults, this means 6 to 7 hours of sleep per night. For most teens, this would mean 8 hours of sleep.
Do NOT use Cruise Control: Because of the continual need to adjust your speed when driving on snow and ice, it is not a good idea to use your cruise control. Your cruise control will attempt to maintain the speed you are traveling at regardless of the conditions, and this could easily result in an accident.
Plan your Travel Carefully: Before you drive in winter weather, take a look at the weather report and plan out your route carefully. Check to make sure that the roads are passable in the areas where you will be traveling, and if the weather is particularly bad, you should avoid driving in it altogether unless it is absolutely necessary.
Looking for Better Auto Insurance? Contact a Local Independent Agent: Winter is the time to focus heavily on safe driving, but toward the beginning of the year is also a good time to check and make sure you have the right insurance coverages for your vehicle, and that you are getting the best deal. Shopping around and getting quotes from several different insurance carriers can be a pain, however. The most efficient way to accomplish this is to contact an independent insurance agent. Independent brokers work with several of the top carriers in your area, and because they are not captive to any single insurer, they can shop freely to find the best insurance product to meet your specific needs.