The three key elements to safe winter driving are:
It is best to winterize your vehicle before winter strikes. Schedule a maintenance check-up for the vehicle’s tires and tire pressure, battery, belts and hoses, radiator,oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers and ignition system.Keep your gas tank sufficiently full – at least half a tank is recommended. Depending upon where you drive, you may consider using winter tires or tire chains.
Winter driving conditions such as rain, snow, and ice dramatically affect the brakingdistance of a vehicle. The driver’s capability to complete a smooth and safe stopis severely limited due to reduced tire traction. In order to stop safely, the vehicle’swheels must maintain traction by remaining on contact with the road surface while rolling, referred to as “rolling traction.” When handling slippery winter roads,the keys to safety are slower speeds, gentler stops and turns, and increased followingdistances. It is recommended that drivers reduce their speed to half the postedspeed limit or less under snowy road conditions.
Don’t try to stretch more miles from your tires during the winter months. If yourtread depth is getting low, it can have serious effects on dry pavement, but thoseeffects are multiplied in wet and snowy conditions. When in doubt, get new tires.
Tire pressure usually lowers itself in winter and raises itself in summer. Under-inflatedtires can cause a car to react more slowly to steering. Every time the outside temperaturedrops ten degrees, the air pressure inside your tires goes down about one or two PSI. Tires lose air normally through the process of permeation. Drivers should checktheir tire pressures frequently during cold weather, adding enough air to keep themat recommended levels of inflation at all times.
Sand and salt play a big role in keeping roads safe. The spreading of road saltprevents snow and ice from bonding to the road surface, which is why salt is usuallyspread early in a storm to prevent snow build-up and to aid in snow removal operations.
Unlike salt, sand does not melt and therefore helps by providing traction on slippery surfaces. Sand is often used when temperatures are too low for salt to be effectiveor at higher temperatures for Immediatee traction, particularly on hills, curves,bridges, intersections and on snow-packed roads.
Caution must be used when snowplowsare on the roadways as snowplows and salt and sand trucks travel much slower thanregular traffic. Passing a snowplow can be extremely dangerous as sight lines andvisibility near a working snowplow are severely restricted by blowing snow.
Roads are typically cooler in shady areas and drivers may encounter another extremely dangerous element known as “black ice.” Always slow down your vehicle when you see shady areas under these types of conditions.
Here are some safe-driving tips that will help you when roads are slick with ice or snow:
Correctly operating windshield wipers and defrosters are essential to safety while driving in snow and ice conditions. Properly maintained windshield wipers are amust; there are also special blades available that are better equipped to assist in the removal of snow from the windshield. Defroster effectiveness is essential in the initial clearing of snow and ice from the windshield – and in some instances the rear window when a vehicle is so equipped – and should be checked well in advance of need. In certain cases, a change of the vehicle thermostat will restore appropriate heat to the defroster system.