While it feels like spring is almost here, it’s still technically winter with a probability of more snow to come.  That means more winter driving as well. As we transition between snow and rain it’s important to be up on driving safety that could potentially save lives. Because despite the bad roads due to weather, there are those who still have to travel.  Here are some TravelingMom winter driving safety tips to make your drive safer and easier.

If you have to drive in a snow storm be sure you're up on winter driving safety.

A winter snow storm makes for potentially dangerous driving. Know key winter driving safety tips to help yourself and others. Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Winter Driving Safety Tips

You may live in an area where local government says to stay off the road in bad weather.  But that never stops drivers from traveling despite warnings. Winter storms can may drop feet of snow, make icy roads, cause flooding, mudslides, potholes and more.  But whether you’re out on the road for business, or heading somewhere for pleasure it’s important to stay safe. Use these winter driving safety tips to help make sure you get to your destination.

Pre-Driving Travel Hacks

  • You know it’s going to snow and you’re going to have to take your car out after it’s been blanketed. So pull your windshield wipers up and out, so they don’t freeze to the windshield! That makes it easier to clear your windshield and get them running.
  • Take your ice scraper/brush out of the car and inside with you if you know it’s going to be snowing or icy. Then you’ll have it for when you first get into the car after it’s been covered in snow. (Stay drier from the start!)
  • Leave the emergency break off–in case your car needs to be moved, pushed or towed. (Caveat: That is if you don’t need it for the safety of your parking!)
  • Always leave at least a half-a-tank of gas in your car to help prevent condensation in the tank.

Now on to the more important stuff…

1. Slow Down

Sure the weather is foul, but you still need to get somewhere.  And you probably want to get there as quickly as possible before the weather gets even worse! However, your actions should be the opposite of your inclination. With nasty weather, the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends slowing down by about 50% from the pace you’d usually drive. Stopping, accelerating, turning—do everything more slowly, deliberately and with care. Not only that, but AAA says the normal “dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds.” You’ll likely need this extra distance if you need to stop.

Winter Driving safety is important for both drivers and pedestrians.

Plowed streets don’t mean safe streets. Winter driving safety tips are important for snow driving. Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

2. What To Keep In Your Trunk

  • Many safety experts suggest keeping a bag of sand or kitty litter in your trunk. Not only does the extra weight help give your car better traction, but you can put it under your wheels to help your tires get out of icy spots.
  • Keep a winter safety kit in the car. Include, among other things: an ice scraper, jumper cables, tow rope, a blanket, flashlight, flares, matches and emergency candles, a small first aid kid. For a “deluxe model” add a portable radio, some non-perishable food, water, any needed medications and a multi-purpose charger that’s already charged. Don’t drive without a cellphone in case you need to call for help.

3. Watch for (Black) Ice

You don’t have to have below freezing temperatures to end up with black ice. And while it’s pretty hard to detect black ice, you can look for “pavement” areas that seem darker or duller. Also look for other cars in front of you that are slipping and struggling. If you find yourself on an icy surface remember, as soon as you start sliding, take your foot OFF the gas pedal. Slow down as quickly as possible—but DON’T slam on the brakes. (Yes, although it’s a natural reflex, it will likely get you sliding or spinning even more.) Instead tap or push the break lightly and quickly. Once you’re back in control, shift down to a lower gear and drive slowly as you continue on.

A snow plow driver knows that winter driving safety is priority.

A snow plow works to clear the streets. Winter driving safety is priority one. Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

4. Keep Your Car Clean and Clear

Make sure you clear your headlights, taillights and roof clean of snow, ice or other driving hazards. Keep your windshield and windows clear. Make sure your defroster and heaters are working. It’s now against the law in many states to drive with snow-on your roof, but plenty of drivers do it regardless of winter driving safety. A stream of  YouTube videos making the rounds will show you why it’s so dangerous for you and anyone driving near you.

5. If You Find Yourself Stuck

Experts recommend you stay in your car. Hopefully you’re cellphone is working so you can call for help. Run the engine for heat, but to conserve gas, experts suggest you run the car for 10 minutes  each hour to maintain enough heat to stay comfortable. (Don’t forget to open one window just a bit when doing so.) A key driving safety tip — check there’s nothing blocking your exhaust pipe.  This is dangerous as carbon monoxide can leak back into your car! AAA explains your vehicle, “provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.” It adds, don’t try walking during a storm because it’s easy to lose sight of your car and become lost.

If it’s nighttime, keep one of the car’s interior dome or mirror lights on as they use little electricity and make it easier to be seen. Lastly, AAA recommends you “tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a clot at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.” Further insulate yourself from the cold using the blanket in your emergency kit .  Stay close to others and even cover yourself with floor mats if needed.

Bottom line—if you can—when the weather is bad, stay off the road. Use this as an opportunity to take public transport! But if you must drive, take important steps before and on the road to ensure that you and those around you make it safely to your destination!