In our last blog, we went over how to prepare yourself and your vehicle for the winter months. You’ve gotten familiar with your car’s safety features, taken it to a mechanic to have it inspected, and even prepared an emergency kit. But what about when you get behind the wheel? There’re only so many things you can do to prepare, so knowing how to adjust your driving technique when the roads are slick or snowy is imperative for your safety.
- Buckle up. You’ve heard it over and over since the day you received your driver’s license, but it really is the easiest way to prevent serious injury or death in the event of an accident. Fasten your seatbelt whenever you get into a vehicle. Always.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full. There are a couple reasons that it’s a good idea to keep your fuel tank at least half full at all times during the winter. The first is for your safety; if you get into an accident or become stranded, you’ll be able to keep your car running for warmth. Second, condensation can easily build up in a near-empty gas tank when temperatures are low. This condensation can freeze and cause a blockage in your vehicle, resulting in expensive repairs.
- Slow down. When ice and/or snow are present, accelerating and decelerating slowly are key. Accelerating gradually is the best way to gain traction and maneuver the roads, rather than trying to gun it all at once. Give yourself extra time to brake and keep constant speeds lower than usual. Remember, speed limits identify the maximum allowed speed when conditions are ideal. Law enforcement can still issue tickets to drivers going the posted speed limit if weather conditions are poor and warrant a lower speed.
- Remain calm. Winter driving can be scary, but things will only become worse if you panic. Increase the distance of you and any cars in front of you so you have 8 to 10 seconds between you and them. If you begin to skid, take your foot off of the accelerator and do NOT slam down on your brakes. Turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go and wait to do anything else until you regain traction.
- Use your headlights. If visibility is low during the daytime, don’t be afraid to turn on your headlights. Wearing high-quality sunglasses can also help highlight changes in terrain, even in low-visibility situations. If it’s snowing or foggy at night, use your low-beam lights to minimize reflection and glare.
- Don’t drive. If conditions are extremely poor or severe, it’s best to avoiding driving completely. Realize that even though you may consider yourself a good winter driver, not everyone else is. Much of driving safety (in any weather condition) is dependent on the skill of other drivers.
If you’ve lived in Nebraska for some or all of your life, you have probably become accustomed to driving in snowy or icy weather, but even the most seasoned winter drivers are still at risk of an accident. Follow these tips to avoid dangers on the road this winter and, as always, drive safe!