5 Tips on Winter Driving

Ice&Snow_logoAnyone who lives where it snows knows that winter driving it the worse type of driving there is! Bad weather accounts for roughly 1.5 million car accidents here in the U.S. per year. Out of those 1.5 million well over half if caused by winter and icy weather. Even with such high statistics, people still have an over bearing of confidence in themselves and their vehicles. Cockiness and a false sense of trust in their cars is one of the leading causes in winter accidents; just because the speed limit is 55mph does NOT mean that is the mandatory speed needed to be maintained during all conditions. To avoid being part of a winter statistic, here is some common winter driving mistakes that can easily be corrected to improve your snowy driving experience this season.

#5. 4WD & AWD DOES NOT mean you’re bullet proof.

The myth people have been saying for years is that if your vehicle is equipped with 4WD or has AWD you are excluded from cautious driving in the ice and snow, WRONG!  4WD only helps when stuck in high snow/ice in low speeds, but once on the road and past 15mph, every vehicle is the same. Another myth is that just because all four tires are receiving power, that you’ll have more traction and control. WRONG again! AWD & 4WD has no impact on handling once the car is driving. It doesn’t give “extra” traction for braking, or “extra” traction for steering.  The best thing to do for winter is allow enough travel time, DO NOT RUSH, and remember to have patience with others on the road.


#4. Be prepared for ANYTHING!

Winter is full of the unexpected, unexpected weather and unexpected road conditions and back-ups, so being prepared is a must! Before the weather gets too bad or you’re stuck in a rough situation, make sure you go over this simple check list to make sure you and your vehicle are prepared.

  • Check tire pressure and tread; consider snow tires if tread is bad
  • Check antifreeze and windshield fluid levels are filled
  • Check engine belts for wear-and-tear
  • Check battery; make sure you’re not cutting it close on the life of the battery
  • Check that both front and rear defrosts work properly
  • Make sure to have an ice scrapper in the vehicle
  • Keep a set of jumper cables in the trunk
  • Make sure to have a flash light (with extra batteries) on hand
  • Consider keeping a blanket/extra gloves/ winter boots in your vehicle


#3. Follow the leader…

With younger drivers on the road, or everyone being late for something, we live in a world where we are always rushing and moving to get to our next place in the fastest way possible. When the weather starts cooling down and the roads become slick, slow and steady always wins in the long run. Many don’t realize that your brakes have not changed because of the season, but your braking HABITS should; that also goes for tailgating as well. Allow at least enough space between you and the car in front of you to make safe braking and steering adjustments if necessary. When leaving your house, test steering and braking down a local road at a safe speed to get a “feel” for how your vehicle reacts to the road conditions.


#2. Slamming on the brakes

Icy roads and snowy streets can make anyone want to be a hermit during the winter season, but just because the roads might look bad, doesn’t mean it has to end in disaster.  It’s easy to panic when you feel your vehicle spill on a patch of ice but the right braking techniques can help any situation. Instead of panicking, stay calm and hold the wheel firmly, ease off the gas and let the car slow down. DO NOT OVER CORRECT the wheel, that will just lead to more trouble. Hard force on the brakes removes all traction from the tires, in turn taking away your control of the vehicle. Another concern most people will encounter during the winter is sliding while turning, where most accidents occur. With a few helpful hints you can turn with ease. When turning in snow always remember:

  • When approaching the corner, start to slow down (brake)
  • Once you start to turn the wheel, let the momentum of your vehicle take you through the corner.
  • Once three quarters of the way through the turn, start to accelerate.


#1. Under estimating Mother Nature’s power

Many people believe, no matter what season it is, that speed limits are the minimum of what all people on the road should be driving. During winter, the highway doesn’t always mean travel at least 70mph. Speed limit signs are just suggested max speed for optimal driving conditions. You should drive at a comfortable and safe speed that allows enough distance for stopping. It usually takes anywhere from 4-10 times longer to stop in snow and ice then it would on normal pavement. Also remember that even if there isn’t snow on the roads, the freezing temperatures can cause ice patches, black ice, to form on the roads, so always be cautious and aware while driving this season. Winter is the season for patience and safe driving habits.

Safety Tip! How to Handle a Breakdown

untitledAll highway breakdowns are not created equal.

The procedure for what do in the event of a vehicle breakdown has a lot to do with where the vehicle is being driven at the time it sputters to a stop. Metropolitan-area freeways and rural highways each bring different problems and require markedly different solutions to a vehicle breakdown.

Regardless of the setting, however, it’s important to remember to use the vehicle’s hazard lights and pull onto the shoulder (if it can be done safely to avoid becoming a road hazard to other drivers) to get out of the way of other passing vehicles flying by at high speeds.

Once the driver has cleared the road and is safely on the shoulder, he or she can make the vehicle more visible by turning on the vehicle’s dome light and leaving the headlights on, in addition to the vehicle hazard lights. All vehicles should be equipped with an emergency kit. Put reflective triangles behind the vehicle if it can be done safely.

A copy of the fleet’s safety and accident policy should be stored in the glovebox and reviewed when an incident occurs. Once the policy has been quickly studied, several questions should be asked: Is it safe to exit the vehicle? Is the neighborhood/stretch of road safe or should caution be exercised? The answers to these questions, or the obvious nature of the breakdown, will determine what to do next.

It is recommended to only exit the vehicle if it’s a residential or rural/low traffic area. In high-trafficked metropolitan areas, stay in the car until assistance can be rendered by a tow truck driver or law enforcement personnel. Exiting or standing around a stranded vehicle greatly increases the risk of injury or death. Staying safe is much more important than staying on schedule.

If the car is beyond repair, it’s best to wait for a professional. After calling a tow truck directly or the fleet manager or fleet management company (if required by policy), the driver should wait patiently for official help to arrive.

Never accept unofficial assistance in the wake of a breakdown.

The National Safety Council recommends the following:

  • Do not try to flag down other vehicles, i.e., don’t solicit the help of passing motorists.
  • Raise the vehicle’s hood and tie something white to the radio antenna or hang it out the window so police officers or tow truck operators will know help is needed.
  • Don’t stand behind or next to the vehicle.

5 Freeway Breakdown Tips

If a driver is stranded due to a vehicle breakdown on a freeway, here are five tips to be sure they remember:

  1. Pull over and out of traffic if possible. Even if all of the emergency lights are activated, some highway drivers do not pay close attention and could rear-end the disabled fleet vehicle, causing further damage or injury.
  2. The driver shouldn’t attempt to fix the vehicle, even if it appears it’s going to be a quick or easy fix. Wait for professional help to arrive.
  3. Only exit the vehicle if it is necessary or safe to do so. If possible, raise the vehicle hood to alert passing authorities that the vehicle is disabled and help is needed.
  4. Patience is a virtue in breakdown situations. Particularly in heavily trafficked metropolitan areas, highways are regularly patrolled by police and tow truck operators — help will arrive soon.
  5. Lastly, make sure to keep a copy of the fleet’s roadside assistance or accident policy in the vehicle at all times.