It's estimated that around 458 individuals lost their lives due to icy roads in the United States during the winter of 2009-2010. Many travelers hit the road to celebrate the winter holidays or visit relatives during the months of November through March, even though this period is fraught with the most dangerous driving conditions. If you cannot stay off the icy roads this winter, it's imperative to prepare yourself and your vehicle for these conditions, as well as to know when it's a good idea to just stay home.
Practice Defensive Driving During the Summer
Preparing for the winter driving season starts long before the first snowflake falls. In the summer, practice your defensive driving skills, including how to handle the car during a skid. For instance, in the event of a rear wheel skid, the driver should immediately take his foot off the accelerator, drive in the direction of the skid and gently pump the brakes.
Proper Tire Maintenance
Colder temperatures can greatly reduce your tire's pressure, making it necessary to check and refill the tires at least once a week. Before the winter driving season begins, check your tires’ tread to ensure that it's at least a one-eighth inch thick. Consider purchasing snow tires or store a set of chains in the trunk, if you're planning to drive in an area notorious for its icy conditions or poorly kept roads.
On the Road
Driving on icy roads doesn't require exemplary skills, and in order to remain safe, an individual should simply follow two rules. The first is to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you and the second is to remain vigilant and slow down. Remain calm and if necessary, don't hesitate to pull off the road and rest, if the conditions become too severe.
Be Prepared for Every Eventuality
No matter if you're traveling three miles to work or 600 miles across country in your vehicle purchased at Reedman-Toll Fiat, if you're driving through snowy conditions, always pack a roadside kit. Include a charged cell phone, water, food, blankets, road flares, de-icer, sturdy work gloves, a shovel and extra winter gear –including hats, mittens, coats and boots – in the event you're stranded. This may seem unnecessary, but many people stranded on an icy highway owe their lives to an extra blanket or small shovel.
If You Get Stuck...
Not a year goes by without the report of an unfortunate individual or family who succumbed to the cold simply because they wandered away from their stranded vehicle. If you should get stuck, never wander away from your vehicle in search of help. Instead, stay in the car with the heater on, phone the police and wait for help.
With the right preparation and practice, winter driving doesn't need to be a frightening experience. However, the best way to avoid an accident is to stay home, if possible. Only drive when necessary; if the weather reports are telling you to keep off the roads, then stay inside and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a good movie.
About the Author: Jon Myers is a guest blogger, as well as an automotive mechanic. She's currently completing a series of safety blogs aimed to help drivers navigate safely during wintry conditions.