Winter Driving: Safety, Tips and the Law
by admin | Sep 29, 2019 | Articles
Winter Driving Safety & Tips
Winter Inspection: Prepare you car ahead of time
for winter road conditions. Check the levels of antifreeze, oil
and wiper fluid. Examine your windshield wipers for wear and
replace them if necessary.
Got Wheels? Review your tire tread. If you get
snow tires or studs, get your appointment scheduled before the
tire stores are inundated. If you are in a state where you may
use chains or cables, inspect these when you pull them out of
storage. Take time to review how to put them on before
the snow comes.
Journey Prep: Before driving out into a winter
wonderland, make sure you are prepared. Clear you car of any
snow and ice so you can see clearly – this includes any snow
around your headlights and break lights. How much gas is in the
tank? If you are getting low, plan your route to make this your
first stop. Stop and consider your physical condition, are you
awake and alert?
WEK: Don’t be weak – have an Winter Emergency
Kit! Some items to include in your kit are:
- First Aid Kit
- Travel Tool Kit
- Gloves, Hat, Scarf, Sweatshirt, etc.
- Jumper Cables
- Flashlight and Spare Batteries
- Road Flares
- Sand and/or Salt
- Ice Scraper and Snow Brush
- Small Shovel
Energy Bars or Other High Calorie Foods
- Cell Phone and Charger
Dress for Success: As we hop from one heated
building to the next, we don’t often consider how we are
dressed for the winter weather. Adjust your wardrobe for
unexpected winter weather. If you insist on traveling in the
car in flip flops because the are comfy, make sure you pack
thick socks and hiking boots in the back seat in case your car
does break down. Dress in layers and have spare gloves, a hat,
and a scarf in the car.
Know before you go! Check for road condition
updates and possible closures. Before driving in winter weather
make certain to check the local forecast. Some of the key
weather words are:
S-L-O-W: Everything slows down: accelerate
slower, brake slowly, turn slowly, and travel at slower speeds.
Enter the time warp willingly and keep your patience and wits
about you. Trying to rush through anything during poor winter
weather is the number one reason people slide off roads or skid
into other cars.
Personal Bubble: Allow those around you plenty
of space. Do not crowd other cars and increase the car lengths
between you and the next car.
It’s Ice Ice Baby! If there is ice rain the best
option is not to be on the road period. But there are
other patches of ice and black ice that may pop up when you
consider the roads drivable again. Keep in mind that ice forms
quickest on bridges and overpasses. Also, as the temperatures
begin to rise the thawing ice will be much slicker as it melts.
If you see the ice ahead of time keep your speed slow. DO NOT
hit the breaks! If you suddenly can’t hear the road, often the
case if you hit black ice, continue forward and take your foot
off the accelerator. DO NOT hit the breaks!
Look Up! Many times the winter weather makes us
concentrate on the road in front of us so much that we forget
to look ahead. During this weather is exactly when you should
be looking up and ahead; look farther then you may normally.
This will give you more time to react to possible sliding cars
or hazards in front of you.
Keep it on Main Street: Plan your routes on main
roads. These will be traveled more and are the first to be
cleared and sanded.
Share the Road: Give plows and sanders plenty of
space. Three car lengths is the standard suggestion. Be
patient, many will get over to let traffic pass. Always pass
with extreme caution and never pass them on the right as that
is where all the sludge is going!
Double Your Time: As a general rule, double your
travel time for all your commutes and usual destinations.
Tell Your Peeps: Let others know of your travel
plans – especially for long distances or during a weather
event. Let either family or friends know where your are going
and the route you expect to take.
No Cruising: As you shouldn’t in heavy rain, do
not use cruise control on winter roads. If you begin to slide
you may not be able to get out of cruise control quickly. Also,
depending on the slide/skid, tapping the break may be the last
thing you should do!
Find Your Pack: Have a commute group for severe
weather. You can alternate drivers as you battle the extra
stress and fatigue of driving in bad weather. Encourage it in
your community and this can help keep more cars off the road.
Think Outside Your Car: Consider other modes of
transportation altogether. If available, consider the bus or
train. Get really inventive – do you like to cross country ski?
Just stay on the sidewalk!
Flex Time: Check to see if you employer will let
you change your hours or work from home. Wait until the plows
have had a chance to move through the neighborhood and go in
late. Or plug in the computer and work in your PJs and fuzzy
The Great Melt: Still be cautious after the snow
begins to melt away. Puddles can easily be hiding monster
potholes that grew under the ice during the storm. Not only
jarring these can do some real damage to your car. Besides
potholes, be careful of hydroplaning as well. As the water
melts it may be caught between mounds of slush leaving the
perfect amount of water to send your tires for a little ride.
If the Worst Happens: “If a blizzard traps
you in your car, pull off the road, set hazard lights to
flashing, and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or
window. Remain in your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to
find you there. Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater
about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind
window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise
to maintain body heat but don’t overexert. Huddle with other
passengers and use your coat for a blanket. In extreme cold use
road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra
clothing for covering–anything to provide additional
insulation and warmth. Turn on the inside dome light so rescue
teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the
battery down. In remote areas, spread a large cloth over the
snow to attract the attention of rescue planes. Do not set out
on foot unless you see a building close by where you know you
can take shelter. Once the blizzard is over, you may need to
leave the car and proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible.
If you need to walk across open country, use distant points as
landmarks to help maintain your sense of direction.” (
provided by FEMA
The Car Snowball: When your car is covered with
snow it makes for safer driving if you clear all the snow off –
but are you required to legally? Technically, in most states,
there is not a “snow on the car” law. Instead, other
laws may be interpreted to include snow. Be safe and get your
car uncovered completely so you can clearly see around you and
don’t inadvertently cause hazards.
In many states you can be cited if your windshield,
rear window and windows are obstructed so you cannot see the
road. This is often interpreted to include snow, ice and fog
that disrupt the drivers view.
How about the snow on your roof or hood that you left
there? In many states you will not be cited for this alone,
however, if this snow flies off and damages another car (i.e.
smacks into and cracks the windshield of the car behind you)
then you are liable for any damages.
Some states are
clever and cite snow falling from your car as littering!
While you are at it, make sure to clear any snow from
your headlights and break lights. This not only helps you
light your path, but no doing so may be a citation waiting to
happen in some states.
Snow tires, studs, and chains, oh my!
SNOW TIRES: Standard in many snowy states usually there are not
penalties for having these tires on past a certain date. Check
with your local tire stores as they will often store your
summer tires during the winter season and vice versa.
STUDDED TIRES: States that allow these tires for winter travel
often have a set timeline when they may be used (i.e. In Alaska
they may be on by September 15th and are due off by May 1st –
most states in the lower 48 will have a shorter time
allotment). This information can be found at your state
Department of Transportation website (see list to the right)
CHAINS: Especially if traveling in mountainous states, learn if
chains are often required, make sure you have them and learn
how to put them on before you go. Some flat states also
allow chains under certain conditions. Check with your state
Department of Transportation for specific requirements or
The following YouTube video
illustrates how to put on cable style chains. It is sponsored
by the Oregon Department of Transportation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8RVbDuyOcY):
SAFE WINTER DRIVING!