Winter is an exciting time of year for many, signaling the arrival of the holidays and representing a time when friends and families come together, nestled inside cozy homes around warm fires, while snow and frost gather outside.
However, when it comes to driving, winter can be one of the most difficult times of the year. Statistics show that around 70% of the entire US population lives in snowy conditions in winter and has to drive on snowy roads, leading to higher risks of slips, skids, and nasty accidents.
Winter isn’t exactly the deadliest time of year for car accidents – summer is actually the season with the most accidents – but it’s still not a time to be taken lightly. The changing conditions can vastly affect your driving abilities, increasing brake times, and raising the risk of losing control of your car.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some smart, sensible tips for safe winter driving, designed to help every road user stay safe.
Slower Speeds, Smarter Braking
No matter what time of year it is, it’s always important to stick within the established speed limits in order to protect yourself and others, but this can be especially important when winter rolls around. Snowy roads will make it much more difficult to control any vehicle and icy frosts can massively increase the time it takes for your vehicle to come to a stop or slow down in general.
This is why it’s important to practice smart braking and drive at sensible speeds, according to the conditions around you. You don’t have to drive excessively slowly, as this can be dangerous too, but you should make sure to brake ahead of time when approaching lights, intersections, and so on, and stay aware of potential hazards around you.
Following on from our previous point, general awareness, alertness, and observation can be key during the winter months. Again, these skills are essential at any time of the year and you should always try to be as focused and concentrated as possible while driving, but it can be even more important in the winter months when so many fatal accidents occur.
Staying alert can help you to spot nasty patches of ice on the road ahead and take evasive action, or identify other vehicles on the road that might be a hazard to yourself or others, due to their high speeds or risk of skidding. Awareness can help you identify threats ahead of time and then make the right calls to deal with them.
Preparing your vehicle for winter is exceptionally important, and safe driving starts before you even turn the key and press the pedals. Before winter sets in, take the time to carry out a check-up of your vehicle or visit a local mechanic and have them carry out some checks on your behalf.
Make sure fluid levels are correct, check on your car’s battery, ensure that the tire pressure is all in order, and so on. If you’re using chains or snow tires, make sure to get them fitted before the snow starts to fall, and if you have a garage or cover of some kind, start using it more often when the temperatures drop in order to reduce the risks of frosty windshields or weak batteries.
Have an Emergency Kit
Even with all the preparation in the world, you can never quite predict what will happen on the road. You might be driving perfectly sensibly and safely but still find yourself in a difficult situation due to the negligence of another driver, the hazardous conditions, or a simple fault with your vehicle that couldn’t have been avoided.
This is why it’s wise to prepare an emergency kit ahead of time and carry it around in your car during winter. Make sure to keep blankets, flashlights, and jumper cables in your car, just in case you find yourself stranded in the ice and snow, and consider buying some flares or emergency lights too, just in case. These simple items could prove to be life-saving if ever you and your family are stuck on the side of a snowy road waiting for help.
Winter brings the excitement of festivities and friendship, but it also brings its fair share of hazards and risks that every driver needs to be ready for. Follow the top tips above to help keep yourself and your passengers safe on the ice, frosty roads of winter.