Safe Winter Driving Tips

Sherpa Sense:

Don’t be left out in the cold this winter. With a little preparation you can get there safely.  It’s that time of year when winter travel can take its toll on you and your car. We want you to get to your destination safely and in one piece. While these might seem like common sense, it is amazing how a refresher can make the difference.

Let’s Yak:

You might be a newer driver or just new to driving in winter conditions. Follow these quick tips to make your trip nicely uneventful. If you’re not comfortable and conditions are bad, stay home or carpool with someone else.

Before you hit the road:

  • Practice driving in a parking lot to get to know your car’s handling
  • Driving in snow and ice
    • Front wheel drive – you’ll need some decent snow tires – studless are a great option in almost all cases. They work well in snow and on wet or dry roads. Make sure there is plenty of tread. If studded, make sure there are still lots of studs in the tire.
    • Rear wheel drive – pretty much a must to have snow tires. You will have less control, so consider carpooling with a friend, taking public transit or just stay home – “snow day!” 
    • All wheel drive – you may be able to get away with all weather tires. If your car offers traction control or “snow” controls make sure you are familiar with how these features work and when to use them. 
    • Make sure tires are properly inflated for the temperature and conditions and you have lots of tread. Preferably, more than ¼”.
  • Take it easy out there! #gettheresafely
    • Check the conditions before you head out.
    • Plan extra time to get where you want to go.
    • DRIVE SLOWER, but keep moving where possible so you don’t get stuck.
    • Be aware of the others’ around you and leave more space between you and the next car.
    • When approaching an uphill avoid stopping. Keep moving forward and accelerate slowly to avoid spinning your wheels. If it looks icy drive off to the side of the ice or avoid the hill if at all possible. 
    • If your car can downshift utilize this to slow you down gradually. Limit hard braking.
    • Be sure to scrap your windows so you have good visibility out of all of your windows and mirrors. Situational awareness is key!      
  • Before you go … be prepared … with the right stuff
    • Don’t go out without a heavy coat and put boots in your car.  No one intends to get stuck or in an accident…. Or you may just need to help someone else.
    • Make sure you have a good ice scraper along with your regular emergency gear (link to essentials for your car).
    • Put blankets and some extra warm clothing in the car. Ever read about being stuck in traffic or on a mountain pass…..
    • Throw in extra food and water, cause you just never know.
    • Keep your gas tank above ½ full during the winter snow seasons. Just in case.
    • Get some snow chains or cable chains and know how to put them on – before you are stuck. Some tire shops will let you return the chains in the spring if you haven’t used them. 
    • Put a bag of traction sand/gravel in your car. These provide some additional weight and can help you get unstuck. 

Take A Hike:

If you live in an area where winter conditions exist, be sure to know your cars’ snow and ice handling features and practice driving in a safe area – like an open parking lot. Prep your car with winter safety gear and hope you never have to use it. Follow the ‘Take it easy out there’ tips above. Drive safely and leave the “you won’t believe what happened” crazy winter stories to someone else. 

Yakety Yak:

We headed out to a more remote hiking trail early one morning, as we pulled into the parking lot, there was a lone car with HELP written on iced windows. Before we could park the couple asked if we could give them a jump start. They had been stuck there overnight as they had left their lights on and their battery was dead. Luckily they had blankets and some extra food and water, but were very grateful to have us help them. It can happen to anyone – even you – so be prepared. 

Peak Lookout:

Also see this what’s in your trunk post: Top 12 Essential Items To Keep Your Car And You Safe

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