Tips For Safer Winter Driving.

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Growing up, most kids dreamt of the freedom that driving would bring, first with the parent’s car, then their own.  It is really only after owning a car that the safety measures, proper maintenance and driving skills become apparent as the most important aspects of driving.  Following common sense and the rules of the road will give the driver a much more probable chance of surviving a major Winter storm.  As Winter approaches, the time is nigh to perform Winter maintenance and preparations for Winter driving with your car.

Winter driving safety tips include social responsibility coming first when driving, as the people that would be injured or killed due to a car owner’s negligent car maintenance would attest to.  Avoiding putting snow tires on a car, in some Provinces (Canada) and States (USA), is illegal, and comes with fines and demerit points.  And then the driver still has to put snow tires on their car before they can continue on with their journey.  Tourists and visitors are given no leeway for ignorance.  The same can be said for cars found to be not road-worthy in the winter time.

Much the same can be said for skill, as driving in Wintry conditions is nowhere near like driving in Summer conditions.  When a driver is not properly trained or skilled in Winter driving, like knowing how to avoid locking the brakes, and steering out of a skid, then they really have no business being on the road in bad weather conditions.

More tips for safer Winter driving include, but in no way are limited to;

Safety Tips for Driving on Snow and Ice;

*    Tires.  Tires are the last, and first line of defence when driving in bad, or Wintry conditions.  When tires are balding, have little or not enough tread, or are older all-season tires, then they need to be replaced with certified snow tires.  Ice tires are somewhat more expensive, but well worth it if they save your life just once, or the lives of others.  Snow tires must be properly inflated to equal, manufacturer suggested air pressure, with all tires having the same air pressure to avoid mis-alignment.

*    Driving Distance.  In the Winter, you should never be in a rush, and you should never drive aggressively.  Keep a distance of at least 10 to 15 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you while driving on the highway, as stopping distances are increased dramatically on snow and ice-covered roads.  Another method is to keep 3 to 5 seconds between yourself and the vehicle in front of you for every 20 miles per hour you are driving.

*    Skill.  Knowing how to react to certain situations, like having to decide whether to try and avoid a major pile-up on the highway ahead of you, or heading for the ditch.  You should know how to come out of an ice-induced skid, as black-ice, almost invisible, will start cars with the best tires skidding uncontrollably.  Most certified driver-instruction businesses have Wintry weather driving conditions courses, where controlling skids and making the right decisions are taught.  In case you were wondering, the ditch is the desirable location.

What to Keep in Your Car for Emergencies;

*    First Aid Kit.  Every car should have one, especially when driven regularly in Wintry conditions.  A vehicular First Aid Kit should be in your car, as well as Winter emergency supplies.  These include a warm blanket to minimize heat loss, flares to indicate your location and predicament, and a flashlight with extra batteries.

*    Road Salt.  Road salt, or sand, should it also be on hand in the trunk, along with a spade, sturdy snow shovel, and traction device for getting out of stuck situations.  If you find yourself stuck in a snowbank on a deserted road in white-out conditions, getting out quick is imperative.  If you can not get out quick, abandoning the stuck vehicle is preferred over stayin inside it and risking getting hit from behind.

*    Cell Phone.  A cell phone, with a fully charged battery, 9-1-1 access and GPS location ability should round out the Winter additions to the First Aid Kit in all cars.  Next-generation smart phones can be used as GPS units, bluetooth hands-free talking and dialling, and songs and videos for keeping your mind busy and awake while awaiting assistance.  Calling assistance would be the more sensible use of the cell phone, but once that call is made, there is no better time to learn the abilities of your new smart phone.

What You Should Do if Your Brakes Fail;

*    Composure.  Keep a steady composure, and do not panic.  When you panic, you lose control of the situation, and, inevitably, the car.  Hold on to the steering wheel at all times when the brakes fail, as there will be tremendous pull to one side if the problem is a seized caliper.  If you experience a complete brake failure, as in the master cylinder is shot and all power steering fluid is gone, then you should lay off of the gas, and glide to a slow stop.  As you slow down by increments of 20 miles per hour (MPH), you can down-shift to a lower gear.  Do not down-shift at high speeds, as this may cause a spin-out.

*    Stop Driving.  You may be positive that if you drive slowly, you could make it to the next exit, service center or gas station.  Once you have lost your brakes, it is imperative that you park your vehicle on the side of the road or highway.  If there is a safer place to turn off, like a rest stop, then try to glide to that exit, but give only small increments of gas to get you there.  Place road-side flares about one foot into the road from your car, and every six feet behind it, to give notice that you are in distress and in need of assistance.

What You Should Do if You Get Lost or Stranded;

*    GPS, Smart-Phone, or Web-Enabled Cell Phone.  With a GPS-enabled device, you can see where you are on a map, in relation to cities, towns, villages and service stations.  You can surf the web to find the most local landmarks that you have recently passed, or that you know to be in the general area.  It always helps to know what road or highway you are on, just in case.  GPS units and smart-phones are great, but in heavy snowfalls, or in distant locales, there may be no service, so a good old-fashioned map should be in your car, with all of your stops marked on it.  This tells you how far back to where your last stop was, and how to get there.  Or, you could always ask for directions!

*    Stay Together.  If you are traveling with your family or friends, do not try to be the hero and head off on your own in search of assistance if you become stranded.  While the others stay in the safety and climate protection that the car provides, you could expose yourself to freezing to death, being hit by a sliding vehicle, or losing digits or limbs to exposure.  Deploy the safety flares, and try the cell phones or any other web-enabled devices you may have with you.

If the concensus is to leave the car, because it is getting too cold to bear, or too dangerous to be inside a car parked on the side of the road, especially in white-out conditions and/or it is, or is becoming night-time, then keep the group together.  Once you leave the car, leave a note on the dashboard of your car saying where you went (which direction, how many people, etc.,), and at what time you left your car.  Bundle up in layers, and bring all of the blankets for extra warmth, protection from the cold and elements, and making lean-to’s against the wind and driving snow.

*    Call The Police.  If all else fails, and you do have at least one working cell phone, then you should call the Police for assistance.  Tell them that you are lost, and give them your cell phone number.  They should be able to locate you, knowing your cell phone number, as long as you have a GPS-enabled, or location-sharing cell phone.

What You Should Do If Your Car Gets Stuck In The Snow Or Mud;

*    Traction.  The first thing that you should do if you find yourself stuck in the snow or mud is to stop making it worse.  Your tires are spinning because there is no traction, and no contact with the bare pavement.  You can dig the car out, by digging the tires out of the snow down to the pavement, and making sure that the car’s body is not being held up in the air by snow under the transmission or car’s bottom.  Traction aids, usually made of metal or hard plastics, can be laid down under the tires, and above the snow or mud, so that the tires grab traction from the aids and start moving.  Once you start moving, do not stop until you are out of your predicament.

*    Make Yourself Visible.  You do not want another car hitting you from behind, or to the side, when you are stuck in the snow or mud.  Place emergency flares slightly to the side, and to the rear of the vehicle, between yourselves and the oncoming traffic.  If you have a spotlight, turn it on and face it upwards, so that people will see it like a beacon.  If you have reflective material that you place in windows to warn other drivers of your location and predicament, place it (or them) in your window(s), or on top of the car.  Also, if you have trailer lights in your car, place them on top of your car and leave them on, as long as the car is running (you don’t want to wear the battery out).

*    Do Not Rock Your Car Forwards And Backwards.  You can rock your car forwards and backwards to try and wear the tires through the ice, snow or mud to the point that the tires reach pavement.  The tires will eventually wear through the snow or ice to grab purchase on the pavement, and thus shoot the car out of it’s predicament, but you stand a good chance of wearing the tires out, causing a fire as the tires get too hot, ot wearing out your transmission.  A tow truck would be less expensive, and would get you out of your predicament in just a couple of minutes, once they arrive at your location.

What You Should Do If You Are In An Accident;

*    Write Everything Down.  If you have a pen or a pencil, and some paper, write down exactly what happened, using descriptions of all of the vehicles involved, and what each vehicle did.  Record all license plate numbers, as well as getting the drivers license, vehicle registration and insurance information from each involved vehicle’s occupants, as well as any witnesses who stayed behind.  If you see any witnesses leave the scene of the accident, write down what you remember about their vehicle(s).  If you do not have a pen and paper, then use your cell phone’s message option to record the information via voice.  You can never have too much information when it comes to accidents, as that is what the Police and insurance investigators will pour over when deciding whether to lay charges, and whether or not to pay the insurance claim.

*    Call The Police.  Only call the Police if the damage is over $500, and/or if someone is injured.  If there is an obvious crime, like someone who appears to be drunk leaving the scene of the accident, or trying to mask their inebriation, make sure that you tell the Police this information.  If just one person in a major accident is drunk, then the whole accident’s blame may be laid on them, as they had no reason at all to be on the road.  The same goes for drivers with no

insurance or no or a suspended license.  Make sure that you record people’s descriptions, as well as the descriptions of their vehicles.

*    Report The Accident.  If the accident caused less than $500 damages, and nobody was hurt, drunk, or driving while disqualified (being drunk is included in this), then report the accident at an accident reporting center.  Call the local police, State or Provincial Police to find out where the nearest accident reporting station is.  Also call your insurance company,  and report the accident as soon as possible.  If nobody was hurt, you can all drive to a safe place, like an emergency turn-around road, or a shopping mall’s parking lot, to exchange information and await any Police or other personnel, like insurance adjustors or firemen.

*    Get A Copy Of The Police Accident Report.  If the Police are involved, then make sure to get a copy, or at least the case file number of the Police accident report.

*    Learn Your Rights.  When in a car accident, if one person is to blame, then all insurance claims will be made against them.  If one person isinebriated or driving with no license and/or no insurance, then it automatically becomes their fault, as they should not be on the road.  If you caused the accident, then all claims will be made against your own insurance company, and you can expect major nsurance cost increases.

If the accident is someone else’s fault, then all claims will be made against their insurance company.  If there are no witnesses, and the other driver is trying to blame you when it was their fault, make sure to call the Police, and have them conduct an investigation.

Know your rights and obligations when driving, and make sure that you are competent in driving in all weather conditions.  Keep your car in good shape mechanically, and make sure that your tires are in good shape.  In many States and Provinces, if the accident happened during the Winter months, then any driver with balding tires, or, in some places, without snow tires, will be found at fault, as they should not have been on the road in the first place.

Drive safe.  Drive informed.


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