Plan now for safe winter drivingAdverse weather conditions can make driving tricky when the winter season arrives
By: Staff, RiverTown Multimedia
Thanks to global climate change, many of the weather patterns we’ve grown accustomed to in the past are no longer the norm today. It seems much of the country experiences shorter than normal days of moderate spring and fall weather, with seasons simply switching from scorching sun one moment to chilly temperatures and snow the next. That means it’s never too early to take a refresher course in preparing for safe winter driving.
Winter weather takes all of the usual road hazards and steps them up a notch. Slippery roadways, congestion, road rage, pedestrian traffic — all of these situations seem magnified when the weather is poor and daylight is waning. Although winter driving may be frustrating, there are ways to prepare for the season and prevent accidents and injuries.
How best to maneuver a car when it starts to skid depends on how the vehicle handles. If the rear wheels skid, turn the steering wheel, and subsequently the front wheels, in the same direction of the skid. If the front wheels skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral. Don’t try to steer immediately; the skid may slow, and traction could return. Then you can steer in the direction you want to go and put the car back into drive.
Keep in mind that even with expert maneuvering it can be tricky to recover from a skid on ice. Snow tires are not infallible and may be ineffective on icy roadways.
One of the best things a person can do when driving in winter weather is to slow down and add much more room for reacting to roadway conditions. Driving slowly and braking slowly may help to prevent skids. Also, should a skid occur, having more room between you and another vehicle helps you to maneuver elsewhere or come to a stop without causing an accident.
When visibility is poor, leaving extra room means you can react if something suddenly veers into the path of the car or you missed seeing it through the snow and sleet.
Stranded or Stuck
Should the car break down or it becomes stuck in the snow, there are some things you can do. Be sure to steer or push the car to a safe location, if possible. Put up warning flares or triangles so that you are visible and leave the four-way flashers on if the battery is operable.
You can try “rocking” the car, by putting it in drive and hitting the gas, then in reverse and pressing on the accelerator to create a valley in the snow that might free the car. Use your abrasive material to provide traction. You can also attempt to shovel out the tires.
If the car is inoperable, stay in the vehicle out of harm’s way and call for help on a mobile phone. Leave a window cracked open if you will be running the engine for periodic heat. The National Safety Council says that you can run the engine for heat about once every hour, or every half hour in severe cold. Be sure to clean snow from around the end of the tail pipe to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. For extra heat, don blankets or a sleeping bag to prevent hypothermia.
Driving in winter conditions can be exhausting and hazardous. Being prepared for common scenarios decreases risk of accidents.
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