Winter’s arrival can be abrupt. The fall may end without warning. Maybe you go to bed and wake up to a world covered in snow. You’ll still have to make your morning commute safely, regardless of how much snow has come down overnight. If you aren’t prepared for winter driving conditions, that first day with snow could be a nerve-wracking experience. Thankfully, there’s still time to prepare yourself and your vehicle for the challenges of winter driving.
The winter brings unique issues for drivers, including freezing precipitation. Snow, sleet, freezing rain (sometimes called slain) and hail can all cause problems on the road. Wet surfaces in cold temperatures may become frozen roads. Whether there’s a thick layer of visible ice or treacherous and hard-to-spot black ice, cold roads and precipitation are a dangerous mix. Drivers could lose control of their vehicles or simply find themselves unable to stop while driving at high speeds. Any accident puts you at risk for injuries and losses, so take steps now to reduce your winter accident risk.
Maintenance matters more in winter
Many of the advantages you take for granted in the summer, such as adequate braking and traction from your tires, can be elusive in the winter. Cold air temperatures and frozen pavement make your tires colder. That, in turn, reduces air pressure in the tires, which impacts their traction. Some drivers choose to offset this risk by having snow tires put on in the fall.
Even if you aren’t upgrading your tires, the fall is a critical time of the year for vehicle maintenance and repairs. You should have a mechanic look at your engine, brakes and other systems to ensure everything operates properly. Failing to check everything out before the seasons turn could leave you susceptible to sudden mechanical problems or systems failures in your vehicle. While these occurrences are annoying in the summer or spring, in the late fall or winter they could become injurious or fatal.
Adjust driving times and speeds for road conditions
This is the oldest advice in the book when it comes to car safety, but it’s cliché because it’s true. When you know there’s a chance for bad weather, leave at least 15 minutes earlier than you usually would. This allow you to have plenty of time to get to work without rushing and gives your car a chance to warm up before driving. Instead of trying to rush on slippery roads, leaving early allows you to drive more slowly and therefore, more safely.
In addition to driving at lower speeds, you should leave a little more space between you and the car in front of you on the road. Doing so gives you a greater chance of being able to stop when you need to.