10 Tips for Safer Winter Driving
When those of us who live or work in Oswego, Montgomery or Morris (IL) think of our Midwestern winter, a few things may leap straight to mind: ice and snow, wind chill, nighttime at four-thirty. Perhaps some extra cough medicine too.
Winter also often puts our driving skills to the test. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17% of all accidents happen in winter conditions. The Federal Highway Administration further points out that snowy, slushy or icy roads are responsible for 24% of weather-related accidents and that 15% of bad-weather accidents occur during snowfall or sleet. Each year, these incidents result in injuries and fatalities.
Winter calls for us to adjust the way we drive. We need to be prepared, alert and conscientious. In this discussion, we’ll review 10 useful tips for safer winter driving.
1. Make sure your car is prepared for winter driving. Check the headlights, brake lights, turn signals, interior lights and emergency flashers (hazard lights). Also test your battery. The battery power will drop as the temperature falls, so you want to make sure you won’t get stuck without the charge your car needs to operate.
Ensure you have an ice scraper and proper winter wiper blades (ideally new ones) and maintain sufficient winter wiper fluid (rated for -30°F). Keep your gas tank at least half-full to prevent gas-line freeze.
When winter weather is wet and slushy, consider switching out standard floor mats for those made with rubber or another thicker material. For the driver’s seat, the floor mat should not interfere with operating the gas and brake pedals.
Bringing your car to a mechanic for maintenance before the winter driving season begins is always a good idea as well.
2. Pay attention to your tires. Safe winter driving benefits from winter tires with a deeper and more flexible tread. If you are using all-season tires, check the tread by inserting a penny. If the tread does not reach the top of Lincoln’s head, you don’t have enough. Also keep an eye on the air pressure in the tires, because cold weather will often lower it.
3. Clean the components that assist your safety. This includes the car’s side mirrors and any outer camera lenses (e.g. back-up, lane departure). Remove dirt, ice and snow from sensors such as for blind spot, crash prevention and automatic emergency braking.
4. Know your car’s capabilities. Be familiar with your car’s built-in safety features. For example, many new vehicles now include traction control, which helps the vehicle gain traction on snowy, icy or wet surfaces, especially when accelerating from a stopped or slow position or when trying to go up a slippery hill. Many cars also have an anti-lock braking system, which supports steering in an emergency by restoring traction to the tires.
5. Ensure safe car seats and booster seats. A child’s car seat or booster seat should be correct for the child’s age and size. It should be properly installed as well. You can verify your seat is correctly installed at a car seat inspection station. Here by us, you’ll find one at the Oswego Police Department, the Morris Police Department or the Montgomery and Countryside Fire Protection District.
Note too that thicker winter coats can interfere with the harness fit on a child in a car seat or booster seat. If a bulky coat will interfere with a proper fit, consider keeping the child warm with thin, warm layers and place blankets or coats around the child after the harness is snug and secure.
6. Plan your route. Before you head out, check the weather, traffic and road conditions. Have a good idea of the route you will take, and inform others of it as well. Also allow more time than you normally would to arrive at your destination.
7. Watch your speed. Controlling or stopping your car is much harder on a slick or snow-covered surface. In 2019, there were an estimated 182,000 police-reported crashes due to wintry conditions. Reduce your speed in winter weather. Also avoid using cruise control.
8. Drive in a way that avoids accidents. Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you so you have more room to stop if needed. If you have antilock brakes, apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, pump the brakes rather than press down hard on them so the wheels do not lock up.
Accelerate slowly to avoid skids. If you do start to skid, steer in the direction of the skid so when you regain your traction you won’t have to overcorrect to stay in your lane.
If your vision through the windshield becomes limited, such as by heavy snowfall, pull over to a safe location other than the shoulder and wait until the conditions have subsided.
Always drive sober, always wear your seat belt and always avoid being distracted, such as by your cell phone.
9. Keep your car stocked for safety. In the event you get stranded, being properly equipped will ensure you have what you need until help arrives. This can include items such as a snow shovel, a broom, blankets, a flashlight, jumper cables and emergency markers such as flares. It can also be wise to have a cell-phone charger, food and water, medications and extra clothes.
10. Know what to do in an emergency. If your car leaves you stuck in bad weather, remain focused on yourself, any passengers, your car and your surroundings. Stay with the car as you try to find roadside assistance. Also make sure your car can be seen, such as by keeping the interior dome light on or by putting bright markers on the antenna or windows.
If you need to run the car for warmth, ensure the exhaust pipe is clear of any snow and keep the car running only sporadically and just enough to stay warm. Don’t run the car for long periods with the windows up or in an enclosed space.
Find the Right Insurance Cost and Coverage for You
As an independent agent serving Oswego, Montgomery and Morris, Hometowne Insurance specializes in connecting you with the auto insurance that is right for the details specific to you. If you have questions about your auto coverage or would like to receive an estimate involving different potential scenarios, we welcome hearing from you and assisting you. Simply give us a call!
Oswego/Montgomery: (630) 554-4040
Morris: (815) 942-1312
We also help people with finding the right auto insurance in nearby communities such as Aurora, Batavia, Plano, Yorkville, Plainfield and Naperville.