By Alexandra Smith
With winter in full swing in the United States, many drivers may find themselves on snow and ice-laden roads. Poor road conditions and winter weather emergencies can cause serious problems for even the most experienced drivers.
According to a December 2013 article on startribune.com, a Minnesota newspaper website, it’s important to be prepared in order to stay safe while driving in the winter. The author of the article quoted AAA Minneapolis employee Matt Hehl stating that “the best way to be prepared is to have a winter survival kit right in your car ready to go at the moment you become stranded.”
The startribune.com article noted that key components of a motorist’s winter survival kit should include “a coat or blanket, boots, flashlight with extra batteries and an ice scraper,” as well as a shovel, jumper cables, signal flares, water, and snacks like granola bars or chocolate.
It is also a good idea to prepare for winter driving by filling one’s windshield washer fluid reservoir with high-quality winter fluid, checking the vehicle’s battery, installing snow tires to improve traction, scheduling extra time for travel, and keeping a cell phone handy if needed.
Once a drivers are prepared to hit the snowy roads, there are a few things they can do to ensure their safety. It is important for drivers to realize that four-wheel drive vehicles are useful for climbing hills, but don’t help drivers stop faster. Alaskan police officer Allen Brandt was quoted in an October 2011 article on adn.com, an Anchorage newspaper website, stating that drivers who own four-wheel drive vehicles are often overconfident. Brandt also noted that four-wheel drive “might give you better traction in deep snow, when you’re climbing an icy hill or accelerating from a stoplight, but it won’t help you a bit when you slam on the breaks.”
A December 2013 article on chicagotribune.com stated that drivers should be aware of what type of breaks their vehicle is equipped with. The author stated that if one’s vehicle has antilock brakes, the driver should “apply firm, continuous pressure,” and if one’s vehicle is not equipped with antilock brakes, the driver should “pump the breaks gently.”
Drivers should also reduce their speed and increase their following distance if the weather and road conditions are poor because it is often hard to control or stop one’s vehicle on slick surfaces.
Even the most cautious drivers sometimes find themselves in emergency situations. According to a January 2014 article on newsday.com, a Long Island, NY news website, drivers who are stuck on the side of the road should turn on their car for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm, making sure the “exhaust pipe is free of snow to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide buildup.”
The January 2014 article on newsday.com also noted that drivers should keep their seatbelts on because it is possible for other drivers to slide into one’s vehicle after it has become stuck.
A small amount of snow or ice can cause a multitude of problems for drivers. Even the safest cars and most careful drivers can end up in emergency situations. Drivers can combat dangerous driving situations and increase their chances of staying on the road by being prepared with a winter survival kit stowed in their vehicle, driving safely, and taking proper measures if emergencies happen.