Safe Winter Driving

Winter weather poses unique challenges for drivers. Before heading out onto snowy or icy streets, take a few minutes to refresh your memory on how to drive safely in wintery conditions.

Before Leaving

  • Make sure the gas tank is at least half full and the windshield washer fluid reservoir is full.
  • Clear as much snow off of the car as you can, including the roof, headlamps and taillights. Scrape ice off of windows and side mirrors for maximum visibility.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • If you are going to drive a long distance, find out what kind of weather to expect. Visit the National Weather Service website at weather.gov to check the forecast.

On the Road

  • Slow down. Tires lose their grip in slippery conditions, so accelerating, stopping and turning all take longer on snow-covered roads. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • AAA recommends that the normal following distance of three to four seconds be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Accelerating slowly reduces wheel spin. If you’re starting from a standstill on ice or slick snow, start in second gear if you have a manual transmission. Some automatic transmissions have a winter mode that automatically starts in a higher gear.
  • Don’t lock the wheels when braking. This can make the vehicle slide or skid. If your vehicle has an antilock braking system (ABS), depress the brake pedal firmly and hold it down. Do not pump the brakes. ABS usually send a vibration through the brake pedal – if you feel this, don’t let up, it’s normal.
  • Do one thing at a time. Consumer Reports says that asking a vehicle to do two things at once – such as braking and turning, or accelerating and turning – can reduce your control. When taking a turn, slowly apply brakes while the vehicle is going straight. When it’s at the right speed to take the turn, let up on the brakes and smoothly turn the steering wheel. After you’re through the turn, slowly depress the accelerator to regain speed.
  • Correct for a slide. If the rear of the vehicle begins to slide during a turn, gently let up on the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide to straighten out. If the front end begins to slide, let up on the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go.
  • Pay extra attention to other drivers – they may not be driving as cautiously as you.

For more safe winter driving tips, visit consumerreports.org, aaa.exchange.com or the Federal Citizen Information Center at pueblo.gsa.gov.

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