The best advice for driving in the winter? Don’t.
Unfortunately, we live in Utah, and there’s a better chance of the Super Bowl being cancelled for inclement weather than classes being canceled. So we trudge on to school through the snow, and being prepared for the weather is the best way to avoid accidents.
With the help of the Utah Department of Transportation, here are some tips for driving safely on the roads, now that the snow is in the air:
- Know your route and current weather conditions. Before leaving home, find out about the weather. More importantly, check the traffic reports and find out where the roads are the worst. Make sure you’re sticking mainly to roads that have been plowed. And don’t drive if you’re in a hurry; it isn’t worth risking others’ lives just because you’re going to be late.
- Stay hydrated, fed and rested. You never know when or where you’ll get stuck, but it’s always good to be ready.
- Pack a winter travel safety kit. Keep a few cloth blankets in the car, as well as a few bottles of water and some granola bars. A few pairs of clean socks and gloves are great to keep around, in case you find yourself having to dig the vehicle out of wet snow. Also, make sure there is a basic tool kit, including tape, rope, a hammer, pliers, a razor and a small shovel. The most important part of your tool kit is a cell phone. Always have one charged before you drive in the snow.
- Slow down! The faster you go, the longer it takes to stop the car. When accelerating over snow or ice, be soft on the gas pedal to avoid slides. Always put extra distance between yourself and other vehicles to avoid accidents from the slick roads.
- Keep a light touch and recover calmly from skids. Brake slowly and don’t over-correct. It’s less dangerous to get stuck on the shoulder than it is to go into the median (or another car). Don’t use cruise control, and be very aware of cars surrounding you. Never pass on the right (a rule for good weather, too), and merge slowly into traffic.
- Keep your tires and wipers in good condition. This includes making sure there’s enough washer fluid. And if you suspect engine trouble, stay home, because a breakdown is rough on a good day, and unsafe on a day with snow.
- If you get stuck, stay in your vehicle. Vehicles stuck in precarious positions can often move or slide on their own and roll over the person trying to get out of them. Also, other drivers might have decreased visibility and could hit pedestrians trying to exit vehicles or signal for help.
- Be extra-careful around snowplows. Ironically, many accidents in winter happen between cars and snowplows. Give them the room they need to work. Don’t tail, because impatient drivers frequently get a big chunk of ice through their windshields. Do not try to pass. Their field of vision is usually very restricted.