A lot of you reading this will have the good fortune of living in Dallas, Texas, where winter driving isn’t so much of a concern. Why read about winter driving tips, then, you ask? Well, you never know when you might be driving on vacation in snowier climes, or who might be reading this from out of town! That, and you’ll be much better equipped to drive to the store during the once in a blue moon that it does snow around here.
Prepare Your Car For Winter
This section is for those of you who live in places with a lot of snow, or who know they’re going on a road trip to a wintry spot:
- Put on winter tires, especially if your car isn’t equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD). Many vehicles made nowadays have AWD, but even then, winter tires are best for when you’re driving over snow, sleet, and ice.
- Give your car a tune-up before winter begins, checking the condition of your engine, brakes, oil, etc.
- Put a winter survival kit in your car. This is especially important if you plan on going down long stretches of highway away from major cities. The kit should include an ice scraper/brush, battery jumper cables, bright clothes, a flashlight, flares, some non-perishable food (chocolate for sure), a first aid kit, a blanket, warm clothes, a candle (and something to light it with), a lightweight shovel, and some salt made for the road. Think Boy Scouts – always be prepared!
- Make sure you always wipe all the snow off of your windshields/mirrors before you head out.
Check Road Conditions/Weather
Most states offer transportation information, including road conditions. A lot of the time, you can access this information by dialing 511, but the number can differ from state to state – let alone country to country, if you’re traveling far. Thankfully, we’ve got the Internet, and there’s almost always an online service you can find by searching “road conditions whatever area you’re in”.
And, as always, check the weather. This probably goes without saying, but even the most seasoned winter driver shouldn’t try to drive through a blizzard. Poor visibility and slippery roads make for a dangerous combination.
Adjust Your Driving
You’ve probably all heard of defensive driving, but in case you haven’t, here’s a quick summary: drive like everyone else on the road is drunk. That means no tailgating, only driving when alert, and expecting the unexpected.
Take that principle and apply it to winter driving – assume everyone else on the road is drunk and on an ice rink. That means you’re going to have to drive very carefully – sometimes it’s going to be painfully slow. It’s worth it – there are much more painful things that could happen in those conditions.
First things first – go slower than the speed limit. Remember, speed limits are for ideal conditions. You might have to go 5-10 miles under the posted speed limit – that’s okay, even if other drivers are speeding past you. Stay safe. Leave earlier than you would in ideal conditions.
Next – drive smoothly. That means no abrupt stops and no abrupt acceleration. Ease your way into absolutely everything. Rapid changes in movement can quickly cause your vehicle to skid. That means you’ll have to start braking sooner than you would normally.
Speaking of skids, it’s important that you understand how to get out of a skid. Getting out of skids perfectly takes practice, but it’s not something that’s easy to practice. The rules for getting out of skids change depending on whether or not you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS). Explaining how to deal with skids is a bit outside of the scope of what we’re doing here, so here’s a page from our Canadian friends in Ontario about how to deal with skids.
Here are a few more quick tips to keep you safe:
- Avoid using cruise control, which can create a false sense of security and cause a lot of problems if your vehicle loses traction.
- Leave a great deal of distance between your vehicle and others on the road – more than you would in ideal conditions.
- Don’t stop on the slope of a hill – in icy conditions, it can be almost impossible to accelerate up a hill.
Don’t Get Caught Unaware
Now that we’ve looked at some of the practical ways you can keep yourself safe, let’s talk about a couple of things related to winter driving. First, it’s important to understand what to do following a car accident. Laws vary from state to state and region to region, but getting the other driver’s information and contacting the police are generally good starting points.
Second, you should be on the lookout for winter insurance myths. Unfortunately, there are some people out there who might try to convince you that insurance should cost more in the winter, or that you won’t need auto insurance if you’re not driving in the winter. Both of those things are untrue.
We hope this guide gives the fine folks of Dallas (and some out-of-towners) useful information if they plan on driving somewhere wintry. Take care of yourselves out there!
Author information: Catherine Holland is a writer based in Canada. She writes articles with a focus on law and business for a variety of companies. Some of her favorite pieces can be found on Matt Gould’s website.