With winter creeping upon us, we’re just about ready to snuggle up by the fire with hot chocolate, get our Christmas shopping done and take a little time off work. The wintertime can leave us feeling a little more tired and run down than usual, so it’s really important to take care of our health during this season. When the weather turns, the roads can become harder to drive on, whether heavy rainfall, darker days, ice, and even snow. To stay healthy and safe, it’s worth spending some time thinking about your winter driving practices and habits.
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Ice & Snow
If your area experiences snow, it’s advisable to refrain from driving until the roads are clear again. Of course, this isn’t always possible with daily commitments like work and school runs.
The best advice is to take your time, maneuver gently and ensure that your stopping times are much longer. It’s a good idea to ease off the clutch at a gentle pace in second gear when pulling away.
Try to keep your speed constant on a hill so that you do not have to change gear. When going up a hill, leave enough room so that you won’t have to stop. Always use your brakes as gently as you can. If you are driving down a hill, use a low gear and try to stay away from the brakes.
It can be more difficult to spot hazards in snowy weather, so be on the lookout for pedestrians and bicycles. Watch out for black ice.
Check Your Tires, Battery, And Windshield Wiper Fluid
Check the air pressure in your tires. The tire pressure drops in cold weather. Also check the tread on your tires. As your tread wears down you lose traction.
Check your battery. In cold temperatures, batteries have a harder time holding their charge. Make sure yours is in good shape. You can go to most auto parts stores and they will check your battery power for free.
While you’re at the auto parts store also look into fresh windshield wiper blades and winter windshield wiper fluid. Winter windshield wiper fluid has a lower freezing temperature.
Breakdowns are pretty common in the wintertime, yet if you’re prepared for one, you’ll keep yourself and other passengers safe. Make sure that your phone is always fully charged and that you have the number of a breakdown company with you at all times. T
ake a first aid kit and your Sat-nav (generally, you will have these with you regardless of the season). Take a de-icer (or defroster) and an ice scraper plus a snow shovel and some extra screenwash.
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Taking blankets, sleeping bags, and a flashlight is also not a bad idea. Depending on how rural your area is, you may be waiting a little while before your breakdown company arrives.
With this in mind, it’s best to have as many useful supplies as possible. (You might even want a few travel snacks for a worst-case scenario). It’s also a good idea to have flares and jumper cables. Keep them in your trunk.
Rain or Flooding
A storm or heavy rain can often flood the roads during the winter, and it can be hazardous to drive under such conditions. If you find yourself driving in such weather, try to keep a good distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
Spray from the road can often make it hard to see other cars and for other vehicles to see you. Too much water can stop your tires from gripping and if this happens, you might find that your steering is not working properly.
In such a situation, it’s best to slow down and pull over when you can. Cautious driving may very well stop you from being in an accident. Sometimes no matter how careful you are, accidents can occur that are not your fault.
Check Your Vision
Before you drive, check that you have good visibility by cleaning your windscreen thoroughly both inside and out. Remove any snow from the roof of your car; if not, this snow could fall down onto the windscreen while you are driving.
As well as this, you’ll need to ensure that you are always visible to other road drivers. Check all of your lights are working and rely on your headlights when necessary.
Remember that fog lights should only be used when visibility is severely reduced. Using fog lights unnecessarily can dazzle other drivers and cause accidents.
Avoid Driving When Tired
Wintertime can leave us feeling more sluggish than usual; we tend to want more sleep and be prone to staying home. Driving when too tired can be dangerous, so you should avoid getting behind the wheel when feeling drained or if you haven’t had the best night’s sleep.
When driving is unavoidable, drink some coffee to keep you alert, focused, and safe.
Lastly, make sure you plan your route carefully before you set off. When it’s cold and dark in the wintertime, you won’t want to get lost and confused on your way to a new destination!
Check your fuel levels are sufficient and give yourself extra time for winter journeys.
Extra Tips For Winter Driving
- Watch out for snow plows. If you see a snowplow, get out of its way
- Depending on where you live, consider winter tires or chains on your tires
- If you drive a truck, add bags of sand in the truck bed. This weighs down the truck to help you get better traction.
Driving in the winter is different then other seasons. In addition to normal best practices like wearing a seat belt and driving the speed limit you also want to be prepared for safe winter driving. Drive with caution.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.