Winter driving can be stressful, but you can avoid white knuckle driving by following some safe winter driving tips. We put guidelines tips together to help you and your family get to your destination this winter with less stress and more ease. When you plan and prepare, drive defensively, and know what to do if something does happen, you’ll feel better about whatever the winter weather decides to do!
Plan Ahead for Winter Driving
Having a solid plan for your trip will allow you to take your time. Hurrying to your destination is not necessarily going to get you there faster—especially if you end up in the ditch or have a collision. Even minor collisions can be a major inconvenience, and we’d like you to avoid them if possible.
Planning involves checking on the weather as well as construction on your route. When you check the weather, you’ll have an idea of what might happen on the days you’ll be driving. Of course, weather changes, so keep tabs on it up until the time you leave. You can also benefit from checking for detours and road or bridge closures on the state’s DOT website. For Iowa, check out new.511ia.org, which offers layers of weather, traffic, snowplows, and closures. While some construction is inactive in the winter, there may be a road or bridge closed on a route that you don’t take often, so it’s always a good idea to take a few minutes to check.
If you have a large family, it may be important to know possible places to take bathroom and stretch breaks. You can make your stops more of a destination by locating roadside attractions or just check into good stopping points every couple of hours. You may also need to refuel, so look for gas stations that could serve a dual purpose.
Last but not least, get some rest. Fatigue frequently causes altered judgment and reaction times, so you will want to sleep well the night before you begin your trip.
Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter Driving
Whether you have a family of five or it’s just your road-tripping to a relative’s house, be sure to have your vehicle ready for the journey and anything that might come up. That means getting your vehicle serviced and the battery and tires inspected. Fill up your wiper fluid and make sure wipers are up to the task of swishing away any precipitation you are driving through. If you haven’t already, get your ice scraper out and make sure it is in your car, SUV, or truck.
Finally, stock your vehicle with an emergency kit, including jumper cables, a blanket, flares or flashlight, and a few nonperishable food items like granola bars or crackers. If you want extra peace of mind, consider buying ice melt, sand, or regular clay cat litter just in case you get stuck.
In addition to having your vehicle ready, make sure you have what you need in the vehicle, including your vehicle registration, insurance card, and of course, your driver’s license, too. Your cell phone and charger should also be with you at all times when traveling in the winter. Remember to program your auto club or other roadside assistance line into your phone so it is easy to find, just in case you get stranded.
Many people seem to be in such a hurry these days. Their aggressive driving can be a danger to many, so avoid being like them. Drive defensively. The key to defensive driving is paying attention. Pay attention at stoplights. Pay attention during turns. Pay attention 100% of the time you are behind the wheel. Defensive driving also means accelerating and decelerating with ease. Whenever possible, avoid braking hard or punching the gas. Either of these actions could cause a spinout if it is snowing, sleeting, or raining.
Take turns at stop sign intersections, watching closely for who stopped first, who needs to turn left or right, and who needs to go straight. Pay attention at stoplights, especially as they are changing. Some people may not be paying close attention, but you can! Your sharpness on the road could help you avoid a collision. Intersections could also be extra slippery in winter driving conditions, so keep your focus on the road when approaching any intersection. Remember that the addition of flashing yellow arrows can be confusing to drivers who aren’t familiar with it.
Do not brake hard to gauge road conditions. Drive slowly. You should know soon enough if you feel safe to drive in the current weather conditions. It’s okay to turn back if you need to or to pull over if conditions become extremely nerve-wracking. Don’t take unnecessary chances with winter driving.
Know What to Do
What do you do if you start skidding? There are a lot of videos and online resources you can review to determine the best steps to take if your vehicle starts skidding. How you regain control depends on whether you have front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, 4×4, or all-wheel drive.
The best rule of thumb for any vehicle is to go easy on braking. Whether you have ABS brakes or not, there is never a good time in winter driving to slam on the brakes. Any precipitation under 35 degrees could result in less traction on the road, so a steady, gentle braking action is best when it is raining or snowing.
So, what happens if you do slide out of control? Stay calm, take a deep breath, and pull out of the flow of traffic as safely as you can. If another vehicle is involved, talk to the other driver and make sure everyone is okay. If necessary, call 911 or the local police number. You will also need to exchange insurance information. If you have a smartphone, simply take a picture of the other driver’s insurance card and allow him or her to do the same with yours. Remember to get the other person’s phone number, as well. You will need all of this in order to inform your insurance company and make a claim.
Remember, winter driving doesn’t have to be white knuckle driving. Take your time to prepare and drive according to the road conditions, and you will be more likely to avoid accidents. If a mishap occurs, Waln Repair & Collision Center provides free estimates and works with insurance to make the process of repairing your vehicle easier.