Winter Driving Is A Different Animal. Be Prepared.

Winter Driving Is A Different Animal. Be Prepared.
[![Winter Driving Tips](]( winter driving challenges by, as the Boy Scouts so famously recommend, being prepared.
In 2008 a snowstorm caught the southern part of Wisconsin by surprise and turned a normally docile stretch of I-90 into a gigantic, frozen parking lot. More than 2000 vehicles were stuck overnight leaving hundreds of motorists stranded on the highway for hours. Nobody plans on getting stuck or stranded in winter weather, but every year it happens to thousands of people all over the country. Winter driving often comes with a big helping of the unexpected and when conditions turn bad things can get downright dangerous. But take heart, you can meet winter driving challenges by, as the Boy Scouts so famously recommend, being prepared. Here’s how:

Prepare your car. It’s always a good idea to keep your vehicle in road-ready condition but it’s especially important during the winter months when the consequences of a breakdown can be more serious. Your mechanic or service specialist should check these key systems: Ignition System, Fuel System, Belts, Fluid Levels, Brakes, Exhaust System, Tire Tread, Tire Pressure, Defroster Proper Grade Oil, Cooling System, Battery & Antifreeze. If you haven’t given your vehicle the Winter once-over yet, now’s a good time to get it service. Looking for a service center near you? We can help.

Prepare for travel. Keep you gas tank topped off. A full tank will minimize condensation and can be a lifesaver if you happen to get stranded in very cold weather. Check all lights, wipers, washer fluid and tire pressure regularly. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged but refrain from using it while driving, especially in bad weather when 100% of your attention needs to be focused on driving. Use your headlights and always make sure you clear all windows and lights of frost and snow before you drive.

Prepare your emergency kit. There are many pre-packaged kits on the market or you can easily assemble the necessary items yourself. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Booster cables
  • Towing strap
  • Blankets
  • Snow shovel and scraper
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Hand warmer packets
  • Emergency candles and matches
  • Extra clothing: cap, mittens, parka and overshoes or boots in case you have to walk for help.
  • High calorie, non-perishable food items like energy bars and canned nuts.
  • Water in plastic bottles.
  • Sand, strips of carpet or cat litter for traction.
  • Extra windshield washer fluid and antifreeze
  • Flares, reflectors, emergency strobe light.

Safe Winter Driving Tips

  • Clear snow and ice from all windows, lights, hood and roof.
  • Don’t try to out drive the conditions. Posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
  • Account for braking in slippery conditions. Brake early. Brake correctly. For instance, many anti-lock systems require more room in slippery conditions and while your instincts might tell you to pump the brakes when trying to stop on slippery surfaces doing so will make ABS less effective. Most important, leave extra room between yourself and other vehicles.
  • Watch for unexpected slippery spots. Due to the difference in the exposure to air, the surface conditions are often worse on bridges. Exits often have sharp turns and may have received less anti-icing material than the main road. Always use caution when exiting the highway.
  • Avoid using cruise control driving in wintry conditions. Even roads that are mostly dry can have sudden slippery spots. The slightest touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • Remember that a four wheel drive vehicle may help you get going quicker but it won’t necessarily help you stop any sooner. Many 4x4s are heavier than passenger vehicles and may even take longer to stop. Don’t let your 4×4 make you overconfident.
  • Look further ahead in traffic than you normally do to detect potential problems earlier and give yourself that extra split-second to react safely.
  • Wear your seatbelt and allow a little extra time. Slow down when the weather gets bad.
  • Give those big, orange plows plenty of room to operate by keeping a safe distance between you and them. Remember, they’re moving slow and pushing lots of snow. Watch for reduced visibility around plows and use extreme caution when approaching, following or passing a plow.

If You Get Stranded

  • Stay calm.
  • Call 911. When you talk to authorities, be prepared to identify your location and the trouble you are experiencing, listen for questions, follow instructions, and don’t hang up until you know who you have spoken with and what your next steps should be.
  • Stay with your vehicle. Walking in a storm or extreme cold can be very dangerous, especially at night. Your vehicle is a good shelter.
  • Avoid overexertion. Attempting to push your car, trying to jack it into a new position and shoveling snow takes effort and can be risky especially if you get overheated, sweaty or wet, as wet clothing loses its insulating properties and makes you more susceptible to hypothermia.
  • Don’t run the engine unless you are certain the exhaust pipe is free of snow or other objects. A plugged exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide to enter the passenger cabin. Keep the radiator free from snow to prevent the engine from overheating. Run the engine at 10 minute intervals for heat but be sure to keep a supply of fresh air coming in.
  • Use accessories and lights only when running the engine.
  • Keep your blood circulating by loosening tight clothing, changing positions frequently and moving your arms and legs.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers. Tie a bright cloth to your antenna or door handle.

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