www.mybaycity.com January 7, 2010
Business Article 4525
Sponsored by Bay Area Chamber of Commerce

Winter Driving Safety -- Be Prepared

Every year, millions of people have car failures or accidents.

January 7, 2010
By: Brandon Sutkowi

If you live in an area that gets snow and ice, it's important to keep some basics in mind about how to drive safely in cold and snow.

Every year, millions of people have car failures or accidents because they did not take the time to get ready for winter driving before winter begins. Before the cold and snow set in, you should:

  • Get an inspection and tune up for your vehicle. Include brakes, battery, fluid levels, and the exhaust system.

  • Test your heater and defroster to make sure they work properly.

  • Inspect the seals on doors and windows to make sure they are in good condition.

  • Replace your wiper blades. Consider using winter blades.

  • Get ready for snow with snow tires or good quality all-season tires, antifreeze, and winter weight oil.

  • Stock the trunk of your car with emergency supplies: Sand, salt, or kitty litter; a shovel, snow scraper and brush, booster cables, extra windshield solvent, blankets, and flashlight.

  • Keep extra clothing and a pair of boots in the trunk.

    Now that you have prepared your car, you need to prepare yourself. You can make winter driving less stressful if you allow yourself extra time to get to your destination when roads are snow-covered. Allow more driving time and more time to stop.

    You need to go slowly enough to drive safely on slippery roads. Do not allow other drivers to bully you into speeding up and do not race against the clock. It's always better to be a few minutes late than to have an accident.

    Slushy snow, ice, or rain can make roads extremely slippery. You know how long it takes to stop your car on dry pavement. In snow, icy or rainy conditions, it may take at least three times as long to completely stop and avoid a skid. To be safe, you need to increase the following distance between your car and the one in front of you by three times the distance you would normally follow.

    You also must begin braking three times as far away from the stoplight or from a corner if you need to turn. Reduce the danger of skidding by driving more slowly. If you have standard brakes, pump them as you slow down rather than holding them down. If you have ABS brakes, press down on the brake pedal firmly and let the ABS system work for you. Use low gears on slick surfaces, especially hills and curves. Test your brakes frequently and never tailgate.

    Even with these precautions, you may sometimes find yourself beginning to skid. If this happens, DO NOT BRAKE. Take your foot off the accelerator and gently turn your car in the direction you want to go. If you slam on the brakes or turn the wheel sharply, you will lock the wheels and skid. If you cannot get control of your car, try to steer into a snow bank or fence rather than risking a collision with another car.

    Poor visibility increases the danger of winter driving. Keep your lights on even in daylight so other drivers can see you. Keep your windows and lights free of snow, even if you have to stop and clean them.

    If the weather begins to worsen, get off the road. It's much safer than being stranded. If you are stuck in snow, do not spin your wheels. You will only dig in deeper. Instead, shovel snow away from the wheel paths and pour salt, sand, or kitty litter around the drive wheel to increase traction.

    Finally, remember to listen to the weather forecast because sometimes the best winter driving strategy is to stay home.

    © Meadowbrook® Insurance Group - June 2002

    This document is not intended to be legal advice. It does not identify all the issues surrounding the particular topic. You are encouraged to review your safety and health procedures with an expert or attorney knowledgeable about the topic.

    Brandon Sutkowi, Personal Lines Manager
    Meadowbrook Insurance Agency
    I invite your questions and feedback

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