In the last few years, the Northwest has experienced some record winters. While those who come from other parts of the country may be comfortable driving in feet of dense snow, those of us in the Northwest seem to have a bit of trouble at the first sign of a snowflake. It happens to the best of us, as we become so used to driving in the rain that snow can seem overwhelming and understandably so. Properly preparing for winter driving with a few hints can help alleviate some of the stress of driving in heavy rain or snow while also keeping you safe on the road.
Take Your Time
It’s late, there are a lot of people on the road, and you just want to get home. We get it. And all those people on the road share your sentiment. However, speed is not your friend in adverse conditions. This includes giving yourself plenty of time to accelerate and decelerate; This can help increase traction in the slush and snow. Remember that everything will take a little longer on wet pavement than on dry pavement, so when turning, stopping, and when driving in general, slow it down.
Avoid Cruise Control
While this is most likely not news to most Pacific Northwesterners, it’s never a bad time to be reminded that using cruise control in wet conditions is not recommended. Using cruise control while driving on wet roads can increase the chances of hydroplaning, which is definitely something we want to avoid.
Replace Windshield Wipers
It’s difficult to drive safely if you can’t see out your streaked windshield. Don’t wait to replace your windshield wipers if yours are streaking, skipping, or smearing. Most auto shops and retailers will have a book listing the proper size for your year, make, and model of car. The last thing you need is to be on an icy road with poor visibility.
Inspect Your Wheels
Make sure your wheels are road ready for winter driving. Start by checking the tread of your tires. A quick check can be performed with a penny. Insert your penny into the tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Abe’s head, your tread depth is less than the recommended 2/32 inch and it’s time to replace your tires. An extra step you can take is to get tires specifically designed for wet or snowy weather.
If the treads on your tires are good to go, check your tire pressure next. As temperatures drop, so does the pressure in your tires; For every 10 degrees the temperature drops, your tires will lose about a pound per square inch (psi) of air pressure. Having properly inflated tires is not only good for your safety, but also for your gas mileage.
Keep Winter Tools Handy
You probably already have an ice scraper in your backseat or trunk and have a coat and gloves on, but it might be wise to add some kitty litter to your winter driving necessities list. Esurance lists it in the top 3 items to keep in your car as a way to help provide traction if you end up stuck in the snow and slush.
Headlights Are a Good Bet
Even if it might not be snowing or raining, visibility in the winter is often low thanks to daylight savings time, fog or mist. Keep your headlights on and avoid low visibility dangers.
When In Doubt, Don’t Go Out
If you can avoid having to drive somewhere in nasty weather, it’s best to do just that. Fewer people on the road during less than ideal conditions improve safety for everyone, and can provide just the excuse you needed to have a cozy day inside by the fire/space heater/radiator.