Jan 2, 2012

Winter Driving Preparedness & Safety

I was doing some research for a post about driving in the winter & general recommendations for vehicle preparedness to accompany my Night Driving and Headlights When Driving posts. I came across all of the info I was drafting on Wunderground.com. Rather than re-write it, I've linked directly to it and just copied & pasted the content here.

Winter weather driving can be a challenge for even the most experienced drivers. Use these tips to help you drive safely during the winter season.

Car Maintenance
Make sure to prepare your vehicle before the winter season begins. The following handy steps will help you ensure that your vehicle is safe to drive during winter weather.
  1. Check your brakes and tires.
    1. Check for wear and fluid levels of brakes.
    2. Make sure the tires have adequate tread - minimum tread is 1/16" for adequate traction. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  2. Check that your battery and ignition system is in top condition, and that battery terminals are clean.
  3. Check radiator coolant and sturdiness of hoses and belts.
  4. Check your anti-freeze and thermostat. Ensure that they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  5. Check your windshield wipers and de-icing washer fluid. Keep spare window washer fluid in the trunk and make sure the washer blades are in good working condition.
  6. Check your headlights, tail and brake lights, blinkers and emergency flasher.
  7. Check your exhaust system, heater and defroster.
    1. Check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
    2. Ensure that your heater and defroster work properly.
  8. Check fuel and air filters. Replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
  9. Check your oil. Refer to the vehicle's manual to see if a lighter grade oil is recommended for winter driving. Heavier oils tend to congeal at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  10. Properly lubricate door locks that may be prone to freezing.

Driving Safety
  1. Before beginning your trip, check the current road conditions and weather forecast. For statewide highway information 24 hours a day checkout your state's Department of Transportation. For the best weather information all day everyday, check out wunderground.com
  2. Keep your car's windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice.
  3. Always wear your seat belt.
  4. Leave a few minutes early.
  5. Start out slowly in the lowest gear recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer.
  6. When accelerating on snow or ice, take it slow to avoid slipping and sliding.
  7. Be aware of sleet and freezing rain.
  8. Be aware of potentially icy areas, such as shady spots and bridges.
  9. Brake early, brake slowly, brake correctly, and never slam on the brakes.
    1. If you have anti-lock brakes, press the pedal down firmly and hold it.
    2. If you don't have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal.
    3. Either way, give yourself plenty of room to stop.
  10. Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road.
  11. When driving on ice and snow, do not use cruise control and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers. When merging into traffic, take it slow. Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to slide.
  12. Don't pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.
  13. Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car.
  14. Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season. This is good for emergency preparedness and it keeps the fuel line from freezing.
  15. Most importantly, drive smart!

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