Winter storms bring a variety of dangers: cold temps, power outages, black ice, roads covered in slick snow, coastal flooding and even fog. Even if you don’t live in an area where snow and icy conditions are common, with a lot of people traveling for the holidays and winter season, you may be traveling somewhere cold. It pays to be prepared for dangerous driving situations.
It’s always best to be aware if inclement weather is on the horizon and do your best to stay off the roads. We know that’s not always possible, since bad winter weather can often come with little warning, so if you find yourself stuck on the roads, follow these tips to stay safe.
Use caution, period. Especially when accelerating and braking. Icy or snow-covered roads can cause slick conditions, and may not even be visible to the eye, so make sure to slowly accelerate and brake to maintain control of your vehicle. This is the best approach to keep traction and avoiding skidding on slippery surfaces.
Easy does it. You will get nowhere, fast, if you try to get moving too quickly in inclement weather conditions. Pushing your car out of a snow bank or talking to police after an accident will certainly take longer than slowing down in the first place. Everything (braking, turning, accelerating) takes longer in inclement conditions, so proceed accordingly and build that time into your commute!
Try not to stop. Yes, we know this sounds counter-intuitive, but braking in slippery conditions can cause skidding and sliding, so try not to come to a complete stop, while still safely following traffic signs at intersections. It can be tricky to get going again in icy or snowy conditions. The key is to drive slowly.
Do not tailgate. Remember when we said everything takes longer in inclement conditions – that includes stopping! Driving too close to the vehicle in front of you can be an accident waiting to happen. Give yourself plenty of space to slow down if the car in front of you slams on their brakes or swerves. If you’re behind a snow plow or truck, give even more room as it can take them even longer to stop (and they may toss debris, so keep a safe distance to avoid a broken windshield).
Be aware of surroundings. Be extra vigilant of your surroundings during inclement weather - keep an eye on all the cars around you for sudden movements, like slamming on their brakes. Try to look further ahead in traffic than normal to get a feel of what may be coming up. Those extra few seconds can be helpful in reacting to a sliding car. Remember, black ice is invisible and bridges may be icier than other parts of the road. Staying aware of common dangers can help you avoid them.
Do not slam on your brakes when sliding. Yes, it takes more time and distance to come to a stop in inclement weather and of course braking well before you normally would in good conditions is ideal, but we also know this isn’t always possible. In the case you find yourself in a situation where you are sliding, remember this. It’s a common first reaction to want to slam on your brakes when sliding or fishtailing, but you can actually make the sliding worse. Instead, try steering out of the slide by turning your wheel in that direction.
Keep your gas tank full. It’s best to keep your gas tank as close to full as possible. You never know when inclement weather will make your drive much longer than usual, and you don’t want to be in a situation where you run out of gas.