In last week’s blog, we discussed how to prepare your car for winter. Now that your car is ready for the upcoming season, let’s make sure you are too. Here are some tips for driving safely in Columbus this winter.
Clear all ice and snow.
Defrosting can take longer than you’d like, especially when you’re trying to get to work in the morning and have a strict timetable. However, completely clearing all snow and ice off your windshield and windows is crucial to driving safely. With the roads already more treacherous than normal in the winter, the last thing you need is extra blind spots. If parking in a garage is not an option, set an alarm for earlier than you usually would to allow plenty of time to defrost and still get to your destination on time. You may also consider a windshield protector that allows you to peel off ice and snow without time-consuming scraping. Some vehicles even let you start your car and begin warming and defrosting without leaving your home—how nice does that sound!
Watch the weather.
Before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to check the forecast to see what you’ll be dealing with. This can keep you from getting stuck driving in heavy snowfall. Also, black ice is nearly impossible to see, and is a leading cause of accidents during the winter. Checking the weather beforehand can alert you to conditions like this. You may decide to postpone your car trip, or if that’s not possible and you must drive, it can help you maneuver more safely by telling you what to look out for.
Avoid bridges and snow plows.
There’s not much you can do to control the road conditions, but you can avoid problem areas. If you’re able, try to plan your route so that it doesn’t include driving on a bridge or overpass, as these tend to ice over first and more completely. It’s also safer not to pass snow plows and sand trucks when possible, as these vehicles tend to have limited visibility and the roads in front of them are often worse than areas behind them that have already been plowed and de-iced.
Lower your speed.
Even if the roads don’t look too bad, it only takes one patch of ice to cause a skid. This is doubly dangerous if you’re driving too fast. Keep in mind that the posted speed limits are meant for dry roads, and lower your driving speed a bit to account for the wintery streets. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to decrease your speed by about 50% in ice and snow. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going so your decreased speed won’t be an issue. It’s worth it to take it slow.
Keep your distance.
Ice, snow, and other road moisture reduce friction, making it harder to stop your car when you need to. That’s why it’s important to keep extra space between you and the car in front of you when winter driving. Your reaction time may be great, but that doesn’t guarantee your car will stop as quickly as it normally would. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you need to stop abruptly, because you may not be able to.
Ease up on the steering.
Operating your vehicle smoothly goes a long way towards preventing an accident. Nervousness while driving can cause you to grip the wheel too tightly or brake too hard, leading to jerky movements which increase the likelihood of skidding. If you feel too nervous to drive, consider waiting to leave the house. If you’re already driving and feel too on edge to do so safely, pull over somewhere you will be clearly visible and safe. If neither is an option, take your time, take some deep breaths, and stay conscious of your steering.
If you’ve done everything you can to drive safely and you still find yourself skidding, don’t freak out. It’s vitally important that, in the event of a skid, you stay calm and in control of your vehicle. The best way to do this is to be well-informed of what to do in a skid before it happens. It might seem intuitive to turn away from the direction your car is skidding, but this often makes skidding worse. Instead, turn your wheel in the direction you’d like the front of your car to go. Make sure you turn very gently, as a sharp and sudden turn can aggravate the situation. Also, no matter how much you may want to, don’t touch your brakes. It seems like the way to go, but it will not help to stop your car or help you regain control while skidding. Remember, skidding is scary, but you can pull your car out of it safely. You got this!
Did we miss any winter tips for driving in Columbus? What have you found most helpful when driving on ice and snow? Share your tips and advice in the comments below. Stay safe, Ohio!