How to drive in hazardous winter conditions
Winter driving can create hazardous driving conditions. Both the vehicle and driver must be prepared for these conditions, and the driver must follow additional safe driving practices.
Is Your Vehicle Ready for Winter?
AAA suggests every vehicle be inspected prior to winter weather. Start with these points:
- Have your exhaust, muffler and tailpipe inspected for cracks and visible defects. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and can accumulate quickly in closed vehicles.
- Keep the gas tank at least half full to prevent frozen fuel lines and to allow you to drive an alternate route to safety or run your vehicle's heater if you get stranded.
- Keep a bottle of lock de-icer in your purse or jacket to avoid costly delays during winter travel.
- Turn on the heater to ensure it's in proper working order for the cold months ahead
- Check your tires to see if they have at least 1/8 inch of tread and to make sure they are properly inflated.
- Inspect wiper blades for wear and tear, and make sure they are in good condition to clear the windshield of heavier precipitation associated with winter months. Keep the windshield washer reservoir filled with antifreeze solvent.
- Change the air filter, if dirty, for more effective fuel and engine performance.
- Clear snow and ice from your entire vehicle and keep it clear so that other drivers can see your hazard lights if you have to stop in an emergency. Remember to clean off headlights and taillights also.
- Have belts and hoses inspected and, if necessary, replaced according to the manufacturer's suggestions.
- Have your battery tested to ensure it is free of corrosion, has adequate water and is still strong enough to endure cold weather.
- Change oil and check the level according to the manufacturer's suggestions.
- Have brakes inspected by a professional mechanic to ensure they are in sound working order. Even braking on all four wheels will lessen the chance of skids on slippery roads.
- Flush and replace antifreeze in the radiator.
- Replenish washer reservoir with the appropriate ratio of water to windshield antifreeze.
- Maintain a vehicle emergency kit:
- with jumper cables
- a small shovel, some sand or cat litter for traction
- a flashlight and extra batteries
- flares or reflective triangles, something red or orange and a whistle to signal help
- a cell phone
- Coffee can furnace (the candle generates heat) - and matches to light the candle
- Carpet strips (for traction under drive wheels)
- Ice scraper and brush
- Newspapers (great insulation when placed between skin and clothing)
- First aid kit
- Food and blanket
- Tire chains (for use on secondary roads only)
Remember, if you are stranded because of winter weather, it is best to stay in your vehicle so you can be found. Source: AAA North Dakota
Correcting a Skid
In rear-wheel drive automobiles, you should stay off the brakes and gradually ease off the accelerator. Turn your wheels in the direction the rear end of your vehicle is skidding. If the rear end of the vehicle skids right, steer right. If the rear end of the vehicle skids left, steer left. When front-wheel drive vehicles start to skid when traveling at moderate speeds, you should accelerate slightly and steer in the direction you want to go.
If there is no room to accelerate, shift into neutral or push in the clutch. Remember, front-wheel drive vehicles have positive, accurate, and quick steering; the vehicle goes exactly where you point it. Four-wheel drive vehicles have a tendency of giving the driver a false sense of security.
Therefore, slower speeds on slippery surfaces are extremely important. When traveling at moderate speeds, you should accelerate and steer into the direction of the skid.
At higher speeds, or in the event there is no room to accelerate, you should push in the clutch or with automatic transmission vehicles, shift into neutral.
A hard surface roadway is very slippery just after it starts raining. Water combines with the road dirt and oil to form a slick film between your tires and the roadway surface. When the water on the roadway becomes deeper, another hazardous situation occurs: Hydroplaning. This occurs when your tires ride on the water and not on roadway surface.
Most skids are the result of driving too fast for the road conditions on slippery roadways. The key to safe vehicle operation is slower speeds. Rain reduces visibility and increases the possibility of a dangerous skid. Slow down and be alert.