Winter brings severe weather that can make driving a dangerous and frightening experience. When roads are icy or snow-covered, drivers should stay home, regardless of their experience level. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and in some cases, long-distance travel is required. Here are some driving tips from the experts for safe long-distance road travel during winter months.
Before heading off on a long winter drive, particularly one that includes traveling through isolated areas, watch the weather report. If a storm is expected, inform others of the destination, planned route, and approximate arrival time. Have the vehicle inspected by an auto repair shop to ensure that it is in peak condition and pack emergency supplies including water, food, hats, gloves, blankets, necessary medications, and a cell phone with a programmed number for emergency auto service.
Maintain at least a half-tank of gas throughout the trip. If the car becomes stuck in the snow, remain with it. The vehicle will serve as emergency shelter and staying with it helps rescuers locate you. Signal distress by placing a colored cloth at the top of a closed window or tying it around the vehicle antenna. Walking in a storm is dangerous because it is easy to lose sight of the car and get lost.
Do not attempt to dig or push the vehicle out of snow if this requires overexertion. However, ensure that the car exhaust pipe is not clogged with mud, ice, or snow because this may allow carbon monoxide to leak into the passenger compartment if the engine is left running. Conserve gasoline by running the engine only long enough to fend off the cold. If there are not enough blankets to keep away a chill, wrap up in paper maps, newspapers, or even floor mats.
When driving through snow, proceed slowly and with caution, accelerating and decelerating gradually. The best way to regain traction and avoid skidding on a snow-covered road is to slowly apply the gas pedal to accelerate. It takes longer to slow down on an icy road so begin decelerating and applying the brake long before a stop signal.
Long-distance winter trips can be exciting adventures but they can become dangerous when inclement weather appears. Drive carefully and make safety top priority so the car and its occupants arrive at the destination unharmed. No trip is worth risking a life so if staying home during inclement winter weather is possible, do it.
*Photo Courtesy of Tom Brandt via Creative Commons License