Winter Driving

Travel Writer:  Mark Conner

Travel Tip

Cost: FREE

Whether you’re a newcomer or have called Colorado home your entire life, winter driving can be hazardous if you aren’t prepared. The key to driving in winter weather safely is to make sure you’re educated and ready for whatever comes your way.

Be Prepared

  • Get your car serviced before winter weather sets in. Take care of any routine maintenance and arrange for the mechanic to check any needed repairs. Driving in winter weather is not the time to find out you have a problem that could have been prevented.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full when the temperature is below freezing. If you let your gas tank sit empty, condensation can form and cause your gas line to freeze, leaving you out in the cold with an engine that won’t start.
  • Make sure windshield wipers are working well and replace them if needed. Consider getting heavy-duty winter wipers if you might be driving in winter weather frequently. Everything is harder to see in hazardous weather, so you want to know that you’ll be able to clear the snow away.
  • Switch to winter tires in the fall before snowy weather hits. All-season tires sound good, but they really aren’t suited to handle snow and ice. Throughout the season, check tire treads regularly to make sure they aren’t getting worn down. Check tire pressure frequently too because cold temperatures cause it to drop.

Easy Does It

  • The number one rule for driving in winter weather is to go slow and steady. If you make any sudden movements, your tires are more likely to lose grip and slide. Easy does it goes for using the accelerator AND the brakes.
  • If you start to slide, take your foot off the brake and steer in the direction your car is sliding. Find out ahead of time whether your car has anti-lock brakes. If the brake pedal feels like it’s pulsing, keep your foot on it because that means the anti-lock brakes are doing their job.

Common Sense Driving

  • Your normal expectations don’t apply when driving in inclement weather. Everything takes longer, so give yourself more time to stop, make turns, and change lanes. This means you should never take any chances, so if you aren’t sure if you have space to turn out in front of an approaching car, your best bet is to wait.
  • Be extra cautious around snowplows and give them plenty of space. Snowplows are very wide and often release material from the back to melt ice. Put plenty of distance between your car and the snowplow to prevent having to make sudden movements to avoid them.
  • Know your car’s limitations, and don’t test them. Just because your four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle is advertised to handle bad weather at higher speeds doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Car and Driver estimates that the majority of weather-related crashes involve four- and all-wheel drive vehicles because so many people feel like they’re invulnerable to the elements.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When you’re under the influence, you can’t focus on your surroundings and your response time is significantly slower. Being alert and responsive is crucial to staying safe in winter driving conditions.
  • Along the same lines, never drive distracted. According to Outside Online, black ice is a common hazard at dusk, so don’t assume that roads are safe just because they look clear. At dusk especially, but anytime you’re facing winter weather while driving, pay especially close attention and remove any distractions. Refrain from using your phone for voice or text and turn off the radio so you can focus.

Photo credit: Unsplash