Winter Driving 101: 5 Tips to Refresh Your Knowledge

5 tips to refresh your knowledge on the right way to drive in the winter.

Winter is here in full force, and it’s time to refresh your knowledge of all the winter driving knowledge you’ve forgotten over during the warmer months. Here are a few winter driving tips you can use to start off your year safely.

 

Avoid Rubbernecking

Unfamiliar with the term “rubbernecking”? It refers to drivers who slow down to gawk at something happening on the road—normally accidents. Rubbernecking is dangerous enough on dry roads, but when you throw in some ice and snow, it becomes exponentially more dangerous.

 

When you slow down to look at an accident, you’d better hope the cars behind you are paying attention and that they don’t hit ice while trying to slow down, otherwise the emergency vehicles will have another accident to take care of—potentially a multiple car pileup, since that’s what icy conditions tend to lead to.

 

Don’t Tailgate

Give yourself plenty of following distance. One of the biggest reasons people get into accidents in the winter is because they tailgate. Don’t add yourself to those statistics. The proper following distance on dry roads is 2-3 seconds. In the winter, that space is more than tripled to 8-10 seconds.

 

Make sure you give yourself that room, because if you can’t stop in time, you could end up in an accident. And even if it’s just a small fender-bender that puts you off to the side of the road, you’re still right next to an icy road and if another driver loses control of his vehicle, your fender-bender could turn into a more serious accident. You don’t want a totaled car to send you to a dealer like Diamond Honda in order to buy another car, so don’t follow too closely.

 

Stay Slow

Whenever you get behind the wheel of your car and there’s snow and/or ice on the road (or it’s currently snowing), slow down. Even if you think your car can handle the conditions because you have four wheel drive, curb your inner speed demon. All-wheel drive won’t help you at all if you’re sliding across ice, and by then it’s too late to wish you’d been going slower.

 

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid using cruise control. You might be tempted to use it to keep your speed down if you have a habit of driving too fast. Resist that temptation. Cruise control slows your reaction time, and if you hit ice or water on the road, your car will try to maintain the speed and you’ll lose control of the car faster. Between both of these, the odds of you getting into an accident are much higher.

 

Brake Early

Give yourself plenty of time to come to a complete stop. You don’t want any chance of rear-ending the car in front of you at the intersection or, even worse, sliding right into the intersection. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a freeway exit or coming up to a four-stop in your neighborhood—start braking early so you can guarantee you’re stopped in time. If you’re driving in the city, start braking a city block early, and if you’re going faster, like on a freeway or a highway, brake even earlier than that, like at the start of the exit or even before the exit.

 

The proper way to brake in winter conditions varies by what kind of brakes your car has. Most cars made in the last decade or more have antilock brakes, and with those cars you want to apply a slow and steady pressure on the brake. Don’t stomp on the pedal, and don’t pump the brake.

 

Hills

Driving up or down a hill on icy roads can be scary if you can’t remember the right way to do it. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as you might think.

 

If you’re going uphill, you want to gain momentum before you hit the incline because you might not be able to gain any traction on the hill if there’s ice on the road. Don’t apply the brakes on the uphill stretch—if you slow down, you might not make it all the way up. If you’re going downhill, slow down before you start the descent. Coast down the hill, and try to avoid braking; however, if it’s a long hill, you might have to tap them every once in a while to keep your speed down.

 

 

The most important thing to remember while driving in the winter is to stay calm. With that mindset and remembering these tips, you’ll be more likely to stay in control of your vehicle, keeping you and your passengers as safe as possible.

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