Driving in Snow, 5 Things to Remember

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Fenton, MI — January 17, 2020

With our area facing its first major snowstorm of the winter now is a good time to review driving tips when heading out in the white stuff. First off, stay inside! If you don’t have to drive when snow is fresh on the road or still coming down, don’t. When Mother Nature’s schedule doesn’t coincide with yours and you have to go out, be prepared.

1. Make Sure Your Car is Ready

Start with a full tank of gas. If you do encounter a problem on the road, having enough fuel to keep your engine running could be critical. A full washer tank will help keep the windshield clear and wiper blades should be in good shape. Visibility is often diminished in the snow, keeping wipers and washers functional helps you see better.

Vehicle maintenance keeps your car or truck performing as it should. Proper care ensures that your antifreeze is sufficient to prevent engine damage. Fluid levels checked, belts and hoses all in good shape, a fully functional battery helps to keep your vehicle running properly.

Remember to check the tires. Tire tread life and inflation pressure are key to a safe handling vehicle. Periodic inspections at oil change intervals can keep other vehicle systems like brakes and suspension components within specifications.

2. Carry Proper Supplies

A well-supplied emergency kit is a good thing to carry regardless of the weather. Essentials like bottles of water, non-perishable snacks, and flares or an emergency beacon are basics. Keeping a small cooler in the trunk for the water bottles keeps them from freezing. A folding shovel and some sand or cat litter might help free a wheel spinning on ice. A warm blanket will help ward off cold if you are stuck for any reason.

If you slide off the road it is critical that you clear the tailpipe so that exhaust gasses can escape if you continue to run your engine. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening condition that can result if an exhaust is plugged with snow.

3. Dress Appropriate to the Weather

A hat, scarf, gloves, snow pants, and boots are probably more than you want to wear while driving. Having the proper clothing items in the vehicle will keep you from freezing if you cannot run the engine while stuck in a snowbank. And if you should need to abandon your vehicle and walk, the appropriate clothing will be essential.

4. Have an Emergency Plan

Before leaving home be prepared for the worst. Is your cell phone fully charged? Remember emergency services are often overwhelmed during a critical weather event. Don’t depend on someone coming to your rescue. Make sure family or friends know where you are going and when you are expected to arrive. Prepare for the worst in case the worst happens.

5. Drive Smart

Slow down and drive defensively. Disengage the cruise control. Know what type of braking system you have on your vehicle. Most newer cars and trucks have antilock brakes. There is no need to pump the brakes with an antilock system. Keep steady pressure on the brake pedal and the computer will adjust wheel speeds accordingly. On older vehicles, the brake pumping technique can help stop the wheels from sliding on snow or ice.

Again, don’t drive in severe weather conditions unless it’s absolutely necessary. Think ahead and stay safe.