Winter weather driving tips

Prepare your vehicle for winter weather well before winter begins. Preventive maintenance helps to ensure that avoidable problems do not occur, especially during inopportune times such as severe weather. Before driving in questionable weather, check the following on your vehicle: battery, lights, belts, brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust system. 

Ensure your tires have adequate tread and air pressure. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs. Check the air pressure frequently to maintain the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.

Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season. This ensures you have a source of heat if you are stuck or stranded. It also keeps water from condensing and building up in your gas tank, which can eventually rusts out the tank.

Clear snow and ice off your entire vehicle: windshield, windows, outside mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof and trunk. Visibility is essential when road conditions are at their worst. You will need all the windows clear in order to fully predict the road conditions and actions of other drivers. Clear lights and reflectors also allow other drivers to see you better. Furthermore, brushing off the entire vehicle prevents snow from flying off and blocking your view or that of drivers around you.

Make sure your vehicle is equipped with good wiper blades and that they exert enough pressure to ensure a clean sweep. Keep the windshield washer reservoir full and extra fluid in your trunk. The reservoir can empty quickly on snowy or messy days.

Get the feel of the road. Occasionally test your brakes or gently depress your accelerator while driving. Once you know how slippery the road is, adjust your speed accordingly.

Today most cars and light trucks are equipped with anti-lock brakes. For anti-lock brakes to work correctly, or at all, during an emergency stop, apply firm and steady pressure. If the vehicle is not equipped with anti-lock brakes, then pumping the brakes is the proper way to keep the vehicle in control when stopping on a slippery road. Pumping the brakes is applying the brakes up to the point, but not quite, of stopping the wheels from rotating, then letting up. Applying too much brake can lock the wheels causing the vehicle to slide out of control.

Always drive with your headlights on to increase your ability to see and other’s ability to see you. Be sure to keep them clean. Dirty headlights can greatly reduce your visibility, especially at night.

Inform others of your destination and expected time of arrival. Leave yourself plenty of time to clean off your vehicle, drive safely and still arrive on time.

Keep some basic essentials in your vehicle during the winter months. Having a snowbrush, ice scraper, shovel, sand, and windshield washer fluid in your vehicle will ensure you can see while driving and may help you in some difficult situations. Putting extra food, water, blankets and extra clothes in your vehicle also can be helpful – and even save your life – in case of long delays.

Keep in mind that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads covered in snow and ice. Adjust your speed and increase your following distance as road conditions and visibility get worse. It may be necessary to triple or quadruple the Two-Second Rule. Bridges and overpasses are the first areas to become icy. Avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes. Don’t tailgate.

Never use your cruise control in snowy or icy conditions. Cruise control may cause your vehicle to accelerate at inopportune moments. Additionally, roads that appear clear can have slippery spots and the short touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control feature can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

Four-wheel drive vehicles may help you get going quicker than other vehicles, but they will not help you stop any faster. Many four-wheel drives are heavier than passenger vehicles and actually may take longer to stop. A four-wheel drive also can lose traction just as quickly as a two-wheel drive vehicle.

Most importantly, if conditions become severe, find a safe place to park until driving conditions improve.

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Test your knowledge about winter driving

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  • Test your knowledge to see if you are prepared for
    this winter's weather challenges.

  • To increase visibility during adverse weather conditions, you should:

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    Flash your headlights.
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    Turn your four-way flashers on.
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    Turn your headlights on.
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    All of the above

    Keeping your headlights on during weather conditions helps other motorists see you better. It is also required by law in most places.

  • It is beginning to snow and the roadway is almost snow covered. Any delay could cause you to miss your appointment. What should you do?

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    Move to the left lane to pass slower traffic.
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    Find somewhere safe to park and call ahead to let others know you will be late. Continue, driving cautiously, if it is safe to do so or stay put until conditions improve.
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    Convoy with four-wheel drive trucks that drive fast.
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    Take an alternate route with less traffic to slow you down.

    You should never compromise your safety or the safety of others by exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for road or weather conditions.

  • You are at a four-way stop. The roadway is snow covered and icy. You have the right of way to proceed into the intersection as a vehicle approaches from the right. The other driver is unable to stop and hits your vehicle in the intersection. This accident is:

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    Preventable because you failed to anticipate that the other driver may have difficulty stopping.
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    Non-preventable because the other driver failed to stop.
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    Non-preventable because the other driver did not anticipate ice at the intersection.

    When it comes to accidents, "preventable" and "at-fault" are not the same. An accident caused by one motorist can often still be prevented by others. Driving in a manner that compensates for the mistakes of other motorists is a fundamental defensive driving principle.

  • The first winter storm of the season is considered by many to be the most dangerous because:

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    Many motorists are not prepared for winter weather.
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    Emergency crews may not be prepared.
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    You may not be accustomed to driving during winter weather conditions yet.
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    All of the above.

    Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. At the beginning of the winter season, many drivers are out of practice and need time to adjust their driving habits.

  • Ice forms more readily in the following areas:

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    On bridges and overpasses.
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    Shaded areas.
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    At intersections.
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    All of the above.

    Expect ice whenever the air temperature or ground temperature are below freezing and there is precipitation or water on the roadway, especially in the areas listed.

  • When approaching a snow plow you should:

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    Move as far to the left as possible.
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    Avoid passing unless it is necessary and safe to do so.
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    Pass quickly to avoid getting in the way.
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    Thank the driver for keeping roads clear.

    Passing a snow plow can be very dangerous and should only be done when necessary and when it is safe to do so. Snow plows have the right of way and frequently stop or turn unexpectedly.

  • Steps to reducing weather-related accidents include:

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    Reducing speed.
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    Increasing following distance.
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    Turning and braking carefully on slippery roads.
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    All of the above.

    Reducing speed, increasing following distance, and turning and braking carefully are critical defensive techniques during adverse weather.

  • While water turns to ice in the air at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, ice can form on roadways when the air temperature is above 32 degrees.

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    True
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    False

    If the road temperature is below freezing, ice can form on the roadway even though the air temperature is above 32 degrees.

  • Hydroplaning is caused by:

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    Water spray from other vehicles.
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    Lack of windshield wiper fluid.
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    Driving too fast on wet roads.
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    Icy roads

    Hydroplaning can be very dangerous and can occur at speeds as low as 30 mph. Water on the roadway can be difficult to see, especially at night.

  • During severe adverse weather, such as heavy snow, glare ice, torrential rain, or very strong winds, you should:

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    Follow the vehicle in front of you.
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    Find a safe place to park and wait for conditions to improve.
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    Wait for a police escort.
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    Block the roadway to stop traffic.

    When road or weather conditions deteriorate to the point where visibility and your ability to control your vehicle are severely reduced, it is a good time to get off the road.

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