Winter Driving Safety Tips
If you drive in New England in the winter, you face weather-related challenges each time you get behind the wheel.
In fact, every year 24 percent of weather-related vehicle accidents happen on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent occur when it’s snowing or sleeting. (according to the Federal Highway Administration)
These winter weather conditions often make it harder for you to see, slow down and stop – factors that increase the chances you’ll have an accident.
However, you’ll fare better driving in treacherous conditions if you’re prepared. So here are some tips to help you get ready for everything a good, old-fashion New England winter can throw at you.
- Fill the gas tank before a long trip – In the summer, if you end up driving on fumes and break down on the side of the road at least you won’t freeze to death. However, in the middle of January, if you get stuck in traffic or even in snow – you’ll use up more fuel than you planned getting to or from your destination or trying to stay warm.
- Stay in your vehicle – If you do break down during a storm or freezing cold temperatures, stay in your vehicle and call for help. It can be very dangerous to walk in a storm – you can get lost, become exhausted, collapse and risk your life, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up if you get stuck or have to pull over so you won’t be asphyxiated. Just keep your vehicle running long enough so you can get warm. Be sure to clear any snow out of the exhaust pipe.
- Maintain your car – Have your mechanic give your car the once over. He should check such things as the battery, tire tread, windshield wipers, charging system, belts, brakes, exhaust system, cooling system and fluid levels. If the tires are worn have new ones put on. The same goes for the windshield wipers. Make certain that the antifreeze will protect your car at winter temperatures – for most areas, you’ll need a 50-50 mix of coolant to water. The 50-50 mix has a lower freezing point than 100% antifreeze. In addition, bring along an extra bottle of windshield washer fluid.
- Bring the basic supplies – If you’re driving more than a few miles, you should pack some items to help you in case you get in a jam, including a fully charged cell phone (and car charger), folding shovel to dig tires out of the snow, flares and a white flag, first-aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, nonperishable food, drinking water, blankets, extra clothing, and any necessary medicines.
- Clean off your entire car – After a snow or ice storm, be sure to clear off your entire car so you can see where you’re going. Don’t just clear a tiny hole in the windshield. Use a snow brush and/or ice scraper to clear all the glass on your car, including the lights and the side-view mirrors. It’s really important to clear the snow off the roof so it won’t slide down and cover your windshield when you’re driving or fly off and hit the windshield of another car, causing the driver to crash.
Finally, in really bad weather, the best thing to do is stay off the roads. Don’t drive if conditions are hazardous. Wait until the road conditions and the weather improve before you venture out.
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