Road Trip 101: Winter driving safety

With temperatures outside reaching the freezing point, winter driving safety is very important. Roads can become increasingly dangerous as the season goes on. When the roads are covered with ice or snow, even the most experienced driver can run into challenges. When winter strikes, motorists can face obstacles every time they get behind the wheel.

Ice, slush, and snow are involved in nearly one in four weather-related crashes on the road. These conditions can make visibility low, causing drivers to slow down or in some cases come to a complete stop, which can be dangerous if there is oncoming traffic. Inexperienced drivers, especially behind the wheel of a big vehicle like an RV, commonly contribute to accidents in winter. All of these factors can increase the chances of getting into an accident that cuts a trip short.

So, if you must make a winter road trip, you can increase your chances of reaching your destination safely by preparing in advance, knowing the weather conditions, and practicing defensive driving techniques. Here are some winter driving safety tips to help you prepare for your journey before you hit the road.

Car driving in a snowy landscape
Practice winter driving safety.

Staying Safe on the Road

Get your vehicle ready

If you have to drive in winter, do your best to make sure your car is ready for the trip. That means checking your tire pressure, making sure no warning lights are on, and maintaining the vehicle as recommended. When doing tire checks, make sure all tires—including the spare—have traction, tread and air to make it to and from your destination.

You should also have a winter driving survival kit stored somewhere in the vehicle. This should include things like ice scrapers, a snow shovel, and gravel, sand or salt. That way you’ll be prepared if the weather changes and you’re hit with an unexpected storm.

During the winter months, you’ll also want to adopt some habits that can help prepare you for the drive ahead:

  • Always keep your car fueled. You’ll want to keep at least a half tank so you can run your engine in case you get stuck on the road and need to stay warm.
  • The windshield wipers should also be replaced often, especially during the colder months of the year. It’s wise to have them changed at least once every six months, or sooner if you start having visibility problems.
  • The windshield washer fluid has to be checked regularly and filled so you can wipe off the ice or snow. This will maximize your view of the road and minimize the risk of being caught off-guard.

Understand your vehicle’s features

Imagine you’re driving down the highway, listening to your favorite song, when suddenly you see red lights appear in front of you. Since you’re traveling at a high speed, you hit your brakes and feel your vehicle starts to vibrate. Fortunately, nothing is wrong with the vehicle; it’s just the anti-brake system that comes factory-installed, one of many features designed to keep you safe. The anti-brake system allows you to continue steering the vehicle away from danger even though your foot is on the brake. So what does this mean if you’re driving in the snow?

If your car has an anti-brake system, then you don’t have to pump the brakes to come to a complete stop. Instead, the anti-brake system does this for you, and at a faster rate. Stability control is also a feature to look out for in cars that were built after 2012. This system automatically detects when tires are losing traction and makes adjustments by slowing down each wheel individually so you can get to your destination in one piece.

Every year our vehicles come equipped with new features to make the road a safer place for us all. It’s a good idea to read up on these features and stay up-to-date, so you’ll know what to expect.

GPS Road Navigation
Make sure your GPS-recommended route is safe to drive.

Prepare for emergencies

You’ve been planning your road trip for months now, and you’ve even decided what activities you’ll be doing each day. Despite all the planning and preparation you’ve done, however, there are times where nothing seems to work out in your favor. You might get stuck multiple times, or even get involved in a minor accident. That’s why it’s important to have everything you need for an emergency.

Being prepared for an emergency, however, doesn’t just involve having all the right equipment with you. It also involves being financially prepared to cover potential problems. That being said, it’s important for you to consider all the different types of insurance available to you before hitting the road.

Things like credit card travel insurance, for example, can protect you against mishaps. If you get into an accident and someone is seriously injured, you won’t be responsible for the entire bill because your credit card company will make payments to the beneficiary. On the other hand, if your trip is delayed for any reason—not uncommon in the winter months—the insurance provided by your credit card company can offset some of the cost.

Remember, taking road trips during the winter months can be challenging no matter how long you’ve been driving. Slowing down and allowing increased time to come to a complete stop can help you stay safe on the road. You should also be mindful of the route you take to your destination. If your GPS system suggests a route through remote areas with little cell service, consider going a different way or just waiting until the roads improve.

About Herman Davis

H. Davis loves taking advantage of the sunny weather outside. If you can’t catch him online, you might be able to catch him out playing football with friends or cheering on the Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at @Davis241. Thanks!

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