Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Driving Tips: Survey Says:

I don't know about the weather where you live right now, but here in Virginia there's a winter storm and/or blizzard going on, so I think it's time for a few simple reminders on winter driving safety. Instead of just passing on some tips I've heard, or tips from just one source, I did a short search for winter driving safety tips on several websites, then made a master list of their suggestions, and then compared the lists to find the tips that were repeated the most on the following five websites. Each of these groups or companies is interested in traffic safety, so if the majority of them recommend the same thing to make us all safer, then these should be some good tips that can help everyone.

1. The most common tip was basically to "know your brakes". Whether your car is front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or all wheel drive, it will handle differently on snow and ice, so you need to adjust your driving technique and braking technique. If you have Anti-Lock brakes or not, that will also affect how your car brakes. One great tip related to this (and that is a TON OF FUN to follow) is to get out there on a big EMPTY parking lot and drive in the snow, SLAM on the brakes, practice turning, punch the gas, and drive by yourself to get a better feel for how your car handles on slippery surfaces. Driving safely and smoothly on snow is just like the directions on how to get to Carnegie Hall; "practice, practice, practice".

2.  If you've somehow ended up stuck in a car that is stuck in the snow, the most common advice is to STAY WITH THE CAR. This would apply if you're stranded in unfamiliar territory in a blizzard, and your safest warmest place is in a car that someone may be able to find and rescue you. So, this also would not be too bad if you've planned to have water and food in that car. Maybe some blankets and a cell phone that's charged up would help. Oh, and surely you didn't let your gas tank get down to empty, so now you're all set to safely run the car a bit if you need some heat...which also means you've made sure the tail pipe isn't clogged with snow so that you don't get exhaust fumes in the car.
One exception to this that can save your life in certain conditions is if you've somehow slammed into a gigantic multi-car pile up in bad visibility like heavy snow or fog. If you're the newest person to join this crash pile-up, then the odds are that someone else is coming right behind you and might crash into YOU. If that might be the case, I've read of people that realized this, got out of the car and got away from the car, which helped them avoid being the next injury. Coming close to a 130 car pile-up on New Year's Eve in Michigan one year taught me this one.

3.  Let other people  know your route and travel plans if bad weather is coming. This is kind of like the rule of always letting your  mom know when you got home or got somewhere else, because there's probably someone that cares about you. In this case of bad weather, letting someone else know you'll arrive in Pittsburgh at 10 pm might be the only way they'll know you might be stranded somewhere if you don't show up by the next morning.

4.  Finally, and this is my favorite tip because it might be a good reason to buy some more car parts and work on the car, MAINTAIN YOUR CAR. In the case of bad weather, this means replace the five year old battery before it dies and leaves you stuck somewhere you don't want to be. Keep more than a half tank of gas in your car. Take a look at those tires and see if you have any tread, or maybe you need snow tires, or maybe your tires need chains where you're going.

Here's the source of these tips, and you can find plenty more out there I'm sure:

American Automobile Association   AAA

Occupational Safety and Health Administration    OSHA

Travelers Insurance   Travelers Insurance

Car Talk   Car Talk

National Traffic Safety Institute   NTSI

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