November 14th, 2014
As winter approaches, much of the country will be covered in blankets of snow, posing a serious risk to drivers on their commutes. Additionally, with the holiday season around the corner, many people will be traveling far distances to connect with family. Driving during winter comes with a different set of inherent problems because weather extremes make roads and highways danger zones.
So before you pull your car out of the garage, make sure you keep these important tips in mind:
Don't use cruise control
When on the open road, cruise control can be your best friend, keeping you at an optimal speed while allowing you to take your foot off the gas. However, if roads are covered in sheets of ice or snow, setting your car on cruise can reduce the amount of control you have over your vehicle. During winter, you'll have to be more aware of your surroundings and might have to slow down quickly or swerve out of the way of stalled cars.
Stock your car
You never know when your car could break down. You may run out of gas, get a flat tire or perhaps not even be able to get your car started in the cold. If you are stranded on the road for long periods of time, hypothermia and frostbite can set in quickly if you're not properly bundled up. Keep a set of blankets in your car at all times. Additionally, keep a jug of water and a small amount of food, like energy bars, to tide you over until help arrives.
Increase stopping distance
Even if cars are traveling at a slower speed, you'll still need to keep your distance. Leave enough space between you and the car in front of you because you might not be able to see their brake lights if weather conditions are bad. Also, if an accident occurs ahead of you, you might have to slam on the brakes, which could cause your car to hydroplane and spin out. Keep several car lengths behind and slowly come to a stop.
Keep a half tank of gas
If your fuel lines are running low, then the liquids inside your engine may freeze. This will cause rupturing and can ruin your engine. A half tank of gas or more is enough to keep fuel moving around, which will prevent settling and freezing. Further, the more gasoline you have, the longer you'll be able to run your heat in the event you are having car troubles.
Keep tires inflated
Tire inflation is a vital part of car performance in all seasons. However, in the winter, it is especially crucial because cold air will deflate your tires. If your car has low tire pressure, then it will have less traction on the road, which will make stopping and handling more difficult. Check your tires regularly to make sure pressure levels are within an optimal range. Be careful to not over-inflate, however. This can also cause a loss of traction and may decrease the lifespan of your tires.
Above all, it's important to drive slow. Just because the speed limit may be 70 miles per hour, that doesn't mean it is safe to drive at that speed. You need increased reaction time during the winter, which is difficult to achieve at high speeds. Braking will also be easier when driving slow because your car doesn't have to reduce its speed so rapidly.
Car accidents can be more common during the winter, so it's necessary to update your auto insurance in advance.
CoverHound provides real-time insurance quotes to drivers in the U.S.