Severe winter weather creates dangerous travelling conditions for drivers. Winter weather has been determined to be a factor in almost 500,000 crashes annually, but many of these crashes could be avoided if drivers followed proper safety protocols. Read on to find out about four of the most important things to keep in mind while driving in the cold weather.
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Check the Tires Frequently
Drivers should be checking their vehicles’ tire pressure and the quality of their tires year-round, but the reality is that many of them don’t worry as much about it as they should. That’s a huge mistake in the winter when underinflated or worn out tires can dramatically increase the chances of getting into a car crash. Check the manufacturer’s specifications regarding tire pressure and perform periodic tire inspections throughout the winter months.
When inspecting the tire, look for cracks in the sidewalls and perform a tread depth check. There are a few ways to check the tread depth, but the goal is to determine whether the tires have a depth of 4/32″ or deeper. If they do, they should be fine for the winter. But, if the tread depth is lower than 3/32″ the tires should be replaced as soon as possible.
Leave Enough Space
Even with high-quality winter tires and solid brakes, it takes longer for cars to slow down on icy, wet, or snow-covered roads. Leave a margin of at least five or six seconds of following distance between cars and brake early at stoplights and stop signs. When decelerating, apply the brakes as slowly as a possible using firm, even pressure to avoid skidding.
Avoid Cruise Control
Cruise control may be great for long summer road trips on open highways, but it’s not safe to use in winter weather. Ice, snow, and rain all create slippery conditions that make using cruise control dangerous.
Cruise control keeps a vehicle moving at a constant speed, which can spell disaster if the vehicle slips on ice or begins to hydroplane on water. When drivers hydroplane or skid on the ice, they need to be able to take their feet off the gas to decelerate slowly and steer toward the direction of the skid to correct the problem. Turn the cruise control off during wet weather and keep in mind that hydroplaning can happen when drivers are going as slow as 35 mph.
Only drive in extreme winter weather when no other choice is available. Check the weather first to find out what to expect, and make sure the vehicle is packed with food, water, a flashlight, a sleeping bag, hand warmers, and other necessities in case of an emergency. Do these things even if the trip is supposed to be a short one.
There’s no predicting when a winter emergency might happen, whether it comes in the form of a crash, an unexpected breakdown, or a closed road. Preparing for the worst is the best way to ensure the safety of everyone in the vehicle.
The Bottom Line
It’s always best to avoid driving in inclement weather. If that’s not possible, take some time before leaving to prepare for a potential emergency, drive slowly, and follow the basic tips listed above. It could make the difference between getting home safely and getting into a potentially devastating crash or suffering another winter emergency.