As the Holiday season approaches, we Midwesterners must begin to prepare our minds, bodies and souls for the chilling temperatures soon to come. With those temperatures comes snow. Although snow can create beautiful scenery to look at while you are driving, the conditions it creates for driving is another story entirely. It’s easy to forget after months of mild conditions that snow and ice demand careful driving and special preparation for your vehicle and safe winter travel can be a challenge for even the most experienced driver. So to get you prepared, we offer you a quick refresher when it comes to driving your way through the winter wonderland that is Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
The first thing you need to do is get your vehicle winter ready because safe driving begins before your car even hits the pavement. Regular tune-ups and maintenance checks are important for safe driving year-round, but much more so in the winter months. In the winter you should pay extra attention to your vehicle’s gas level, battery, tires, wipers, coolant/antifreeze, oil and other systems that can take a beating when the temperature drops. Make sure your battery is good, put on snow tires, change your wiper blades and check your tire pressure.
Even if you think you and your vehicle are prepared, things happen. Cars break down and crashes occur. You don’t want to be caught out in the elements unprepared, especially when help might not be just around the corner. For the winter be sure your vehicle is stocked to help get you out of trouble or to keep you safe until help arrives. Keep blankets, flashlights, jumper cables, and flares or emergency lights in your vehicle. You should also keep water and snack food/energy bars in case you are stranded for a lengthy period.
Once your vehicle is ready and it’s time to hit the road, remember these safe driving tips:
- Before heading out, know the weather and traffic conditions, and plan your route accordingly.
- Clear your car of snow, ice or dirt from the windows, forward sensors, headlights, tail lights and backup camera before starting the journey.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly- Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids
- Once moving drive slowly. – It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered road.
- Increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
- Give yourself more time to get where you’re going because you as well as the other cars on the road should be driving more slowly in inclement weather.
Winter driving – even short trips – bring with them the opportunity for misfortune. Although being prepared for winter weather can’t guarantee you a problem free journey, it certainly will reduce the risk. Drive Safe!