It’s time for a winter driving alert. Last winter, 300,000 drivers in North America were stranded in snowdrifts, or sidelined by cold-weather driving hazards, and over 500,000 crashes occurred last January alone! So, here are five things that you should know:
• It takes longer than you think to stop on an icy road. During dry weather, state troopers recommend the “four second following rule.” In other words, when the car in front of you passes a stationary object – like a highway sign – you should be able to slowly count to four before you pass it. During winter weather, you should add another two seconds for EACH adverse weather condition. For example, if it’s snowy AND icy, follow eight seconds behind so you have enough time to stop.
• A little “roof snow” on a vehicle can cause a crash. Melting snow can fly off a car’s roof at highway speeds, landing on the windshield of the car behind them, and obliterating the driver’s view. So, if you’re following a vehicle coated in ice or snow, keep your distance or change lanes. If your car gets spattered with snow, turn on your wipers full speed, and cautiously pull onto the shoulder until you can see again.
• Brakes are worse than useless in a skid. If your car starts to skid, don’t slam on the brakes. Experts say that’s the best way to lose control of your car. Instead, take your foot off the gas, and slowly steer in the direction you want to go. That’ll help you regain control of your vehicle.
• Also: When snow or sleet is even hinted in the forecast, fill up your gas tank! Drivers who venture out in bad weather and get stuck can find themselves stranded and shivering. If you have a full tank during a serious delay, you can leave your engine idling and run your heater.
• Finally, keep waterproof gloves in your glove compartment during the winter. If you get stuck trying to dig your car out of a snow bank, they’ll drastically reduce your risk of ending up with frostbitten fingers.