SALT LAKE CITY — Though it sounds pretty idyllic, most of us won’t be “walking in a winter wonderland” anytime soon. With our busy schedules, we’ll likely be driving to work or school or the grocery store. And that means that we’ll all be navigating those snowy, icy winter roads together — which can be a challenge in itself. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that snow and sleet lead to approximately 225,000 crashes, more than 70,000 injuries and nearly 900 deaths each year.
So how can you keep yourself and your family safe this winter season? Try these seven tips:
Winter Driving Tips:
1. Give yourself time. Feelings of stress and frustration can be dangerous anytime you drive, but when the road is slushy and icy, being flustered and hurried is especially hazardous. When you know the roads are bad, leave your house with plenty of time to get to where you’re going. Chances are, traffic will be slower than normal, so prepare for gridlock. Your impatience won’t improve the traffic situation — but it just might get you into an accident.
2. Minimize distractions. Sure, you may be able to weave a basket under water while standing on your head, but winter roads are no place to showcase your multitasking capabilities. Keep your focus on the road and cars surrounding you and leave your cell phone, makeup and breakfast alone until you’ve reached your destination safely.
3. Keep your distance. When roads are slick, increase the distance between you and the car in front of you by at least three times. This will allow you to brake slowly to prevent skidding, and maybe even keep you out of an accident.
4. Practice driving in a snowy parking lot. If you’ve gotten a new car since our last snow day, you likely don’t have a clear idea of how it handles snowy conditions. Before you set out on the main city roads and freeways, practice driving in a snowy (empty!) parking lot. Be sure to gauge the time it takes you to brake and take note of any skidding or sliding.
5. Know how to handle skids. If your rear wheels start to skid, take your foot off the gas pedal and steer in the direction that your wheels are skidding. If your car has standard brakes, pump them (gently!), or apply steady pressure if you have anti-lock brakes. When your front wheels skid, take your foot off the gas and shift your car to neutral. Don’t steer until you feel your tires regain some traction, which they will naturally do as the skid slows them down. Put your car back into drive once you’ve regained control.
6. Keep kitty litter in your trunk. Driving in the snow is bad enough; getting stuck in the snow is a whole other form of torture. Keep sand or kitty litter in your trunk to give your tires traction if you get stuck. Be careful not to spin your wheels — you’ll just dig yourself in deeper. After dumping some sand behind the tires, steer your tires back and forth while gently pushing the gas pedal.
7. Make sure your car is ready for winter weather. Your tires should be properly inflated, as this will help you get control of the vehicle in a skid. Also make sure that your gas tank is at least half full to prevent freeze-up. Also try to avoid using your parking brake in cold, snowy weather.
If these tips don’t help boost your winter driving confidence, consider a vehicle made with cargo space and winter driving in mind. Young Subaru offers a great selection of vehicles including the Subaru Forester with winter driving assistance features like Brake Assist, EyeSight, traction control and all-wheel drive.
When you can’t walk in a winter wonderland, you’ll have to drive; just make sure you’re doing it safely!