Winter isn’t typically a favourable time to hit the road, but the holidays and school breaks often lead to us making more than a few trips to visit family and friends. Whatever your reason for traveling, making it safely to your destination (and back) should be your top priority. To help you out, here are 5 tips that will make winter driving safer and less stressful for you and your passengers.
Check the weather
Check the weather forecast for the areas you’ll be driving through so you know what to expect. If you know ahead of time that turbulent weather is due, you can take measures to avoid it such as rerouting, getting off the road before nightfall, or preparing for heavy snowfall.
If you use social media, you can follow accounts such as @511ontario, or other traffic alerts or weather accounts. These accounts give live updates on traffic, changing road conditions, accidents, and weather. Being prepared and knowing what’s ahead will give you the time you need to either find a place to stop or an alternative route.
Take it slow
Don’t let your 4WD and new tires give you a false sense of security — driving in snow should always be treated with caution. Even if you have the studded tires, all-wheel drive, stability control, or snow chains, it doesn’t mean the drivers around you will have complete control over their vehicles.
Some helpful driving tips:
- Take turns slowly
- Leave distance between you and the next car
- Look ahead for upcoming stop signs and stop lights
- Accelerate and stop gradually
If possible, give yourself more time to get to your destination on time by leaving earlier, because being rushed and poor driving conditions are never a good combination.
Prepare for emergencies
Every car should have some essentials to get them through being stranded, but this especially holds true while making long journeys through remote areas. Some things to bring along that can get you out of a jam (or make it easier to deal with one) include:
- Snow chains
- Thermal blanket
- Spare tire and tools
- Flashlight, lighter
- Water and food
- Snow scraper
It sounds like a long list, but you can keep many of these items where your spare tire is located, and the rest in a bag in your trunk. Remember, if you’re not always prepared; you’re never prepared.
Frequently update your family
Don’t hit the road without letting your family or friends know. You should notify them when you’re leaving, when you’re due to arrive at your next stop, and what routes you’ll be taking. Keeping family or friends updated on your whereabouts and progress can make all the difference if things go awry (such as calling for help, or having clues to your location if you need roadside assistance). Also, you don’t want a worrying mother or aunt to call in a search team if they go too long without hearing from you.
Breaking down in the middle of winter is a whole different story than breaking down in mild weather. So, before embarking on your winter or holiday excursion, make sure your vehicle is maintenanced and not missing anything that could cause problems down the road.
There are some features in your car that you may not use often, but you’ll want to make sure are working, such as your fog lights, rear window defroster, or 4 wheel drive. Other things to check include:
- Anti-freeze level
- Heater and defroster
- Replace old windshield wiper blades
- Check brakes
If your vehicle is showing signs of having a problem, such as stalling, hard starts, or rough idling, you should have those issues addressed before taking a trip in cold weather.
With a reliable car and some extra preparations, making holiday trips during winter doesn’t have to be a dreaded event. Just remember these tips, and to take your time while keeping safety in mind. Nobody wants to run into trouble, especially during the holiday season.
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