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Winter Driving Tips 101 by Keith R. Jensen - Plymouth Rock Assurance
Winter Driving Tips 101

The Best Tips and Tricks for Safer Driving
During the Winter Months

By Keith R. Jensen, Chief Marketing Officer,
Plymouth Rock Assurance

With the worst days of winter upon us, there are several challenges the winter driver must face when preparing for lengthy road trips during treacherous weather (road) conditions.  Additionally, as wintry weather increases danger on the roads, there is a great deal of added stress that drivers wouldn’t face during other times of the year.  Make the most of your driving time by keeping these tips in mind before hitting the road, particularly when your travels may last for several hours or more.

Step One: Embarking on your trip

Before you hit the road, it is important that your car is in the best condition to drive – especially if the roads have begun experiencing winter conditions.  While you already know that you should prep your car’s major systems for the trip (tune up, oil change, etc.), don’t forget other details that can help you.

  • Plan out the trip before putting the keys in the ignition.  Especially if you’re going to travel far from home, know your route and estimate how far you plan to drive each day.  A GPS system, or a set of printed directions or maps, will help you navigate.   Don’t attempt to program or read them while driving, though – have a passenger help you out or pull over safely to scope out the next stage of your trip.

  • First, check that your tires are properly inflated; if they’re over- or under-inflated, the tires won’t grip the road as they’re designed to do, making it less likely that you’ll stay on it in wet or slippery conditions.  If you haven’t already done so, consider changing your all-season tires to snow tires, as their unique tread will grip the road better and provide more traction. Also, check wiper blades for wear and replace them if they are not working efficiently, as well as exterior lights, replacing any burned out bulbs.  Snow and ice buildup can make everyday wipers less effective.  If you live in an area where snow and ice are certainties, consider changing to “snow blades” or winter blades that will slow the precipitation buildup and can remove more snow from your windshield.

  • In poor driving conditions, remember to slow down.  It can take longer to bring your vehicle to a stop, so reducing your speed and allowing a greater stopping distance between you and the car in front of you will help you avoid a rear-end crash in the event of a sudden stop. 

  • In case an emergency does happen, you should always keep roadside emergency supplies in your vehicle.  Reflectors, flares, a flashlight and a reflective vest can help keep you safer in the event of a breakdown.  Also consider getting an “auto insurance tune-up” by talking to a professional insurance agent to make sure your coverage is up to date.  If you should break down or get into a fender-bender, you don’t want any surprises about what your insurance policy covers.  And make sure to bring an extra set of keys, just in case!

  • Everyone fills up before leaving for a big trip, but during colder winter months make sure at least half a tank of gas is in your car at all times.  It not only prevents your gas line from freezing up, but adds weight to your vehicle. Be sure to remove snow from the roof and all the windows of your car, not just the windshield.  Clear your head- and taillights, too, not only so you’ll have better visibility but so that other drivers can see you more easily.

Braving the snow
Before heading out and hitting the road, remember that your most important goal for the wintertime road trip is to arrive at your destination, and back home again, safely. Don’t push yourself to “go just a little further,” and don’t drive when you’re tired. It is important that you know your limits as well as identify stops along the way where you can rest.   There are studies that have shown that drowsy drivers may be even more impaired than those who are under the influence of alcohol.  If you need a break, pull into a rest area and take a short nap, or share driving duties with another family member.  And, don’t forget to recharge and refresh during long drives; be sure to take breaks at regular intervals to stretch, get some fresh air and renew your energy for the remainder of the day’s travels.
Like many people, listening to your favorite radio station or making a road trip playlist probably helps keep you entertained.  Loud music can be distracting, though, so be sure to keep the volume down.  The sound system must be low enough so you can clearly hear emergency sirens or a horn from another vehicle.
Finally, don’t attempt to multitask. Driving safely requires full concentration, so avoid distractions like cell phones and eating behind the wheel.  If you’re driving with young, and  sometimes too-energetic, children, make sure another passenger is readily available to deal with the kids.  Have another adult or older child act as supervisor – or referee – to take care of dropped toys, food spills, disagreements and other minor in-car incidents.  If your attention is really needed, pull over before attending to the problem.

Keep in mind…

Remember that the key to safe driving is being prepared.  Knowing how to deal with potential issues on the road will help to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible as you travel on snowy (and icy) rouds.  Arrive safely and enjoy the wintery wonderland.