Winter Driving Safety Tips

With the winter months quickly approaching, driving becomes more hazardous and risky as the roads are slick.

These tips will keep you (and others!) safe on the roads, no matter what Mother Nature has in store for you.

Check Your Tires

As the temperature drops, so does the pressure in your tires.  Less tire pressure can result in poor road safety and can wreak havoc on your breaking abilities.  It is recommended to check your tire pressure at least once a month, and you may even decide to switch to winter tires.

Regardless of whether or not you change your tires to winter or all-weather tires, check the tread on your tires. This can be easily done by doing the “penny test.” Hold a penny between your thumb and finger so that Lincoln’s head is showing. Place the top of Lincoln’s head pointing down into one of the grooves of the tire’s tread. If any part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, you have a safe amount of tread, however, if you can see Lincoln’s whole head, it’s time to replace your tires.

Practice Safe Breaking and Accelerating

Giving yourself plenty of space between the car in front of you will allow you ample breaking time, which can help avoid spinning on slick roads.  When accelerating, practice going slowly and working up to a safe cruising speed.  If you try to break or accelerate too quickly, your tires will spin because it won’t have enough traction on the slick roads.

If you find your tires spinning, release the accelerator until you regain traction. It does help to remove your foot from the brake and accelerator and to steer in the direction you want to go. Do not slam on the break or accelerator until you have regained control of the vehicle. Remaining calm in a situation like this can help prevent accidents.

Maintain Your Vehicle’s Engine and Battery

As temperatures drop, your vehicle’s oil gets thicker, which puts strain on your car’s battery (it requires more power). This can be particularly strenuous on batteries that are 3+ years old. If you don’t know when your battery was last replaced, pop your hood and look at the battery – there will be a date on the casing.

Colder weather causes oil breakdown faster than your area’s “normal” temperature range, so you should get your oil changed more frequently in the colder months.  Before the first frost, schedule an oil change to start the season with fresh oil. Keep an eye on it if you have an especially  harsh winter.

Create a Winter Emergency Kit

In the event that your car does break down during the colder months, it helps to be prepared. Keep an emergency kit in your trunk in a plastic bin so you have the essentials in case you get caught in a bad situation.  It is recommended to have these items:

  • Snow Shovel and Ice Scraper
  • Warning Flares
  • A bag of sand or kitty litter for traction
  • Flashlight (crank handle, or have backup batteries)
  • Blanket
  • Extra gloves, hat, scarves
  • Hand warmers
  • First-Aid Kit – bandaids, antiseptic ointment, Ace bandage, etc.
  • Non-perishable foods – granola bars, beef jerky, bottles of water

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Mother Nature has a way of unexpectedly throwing bad weather our way, so always be prepared for snow, ice, sleet, and any emergency situation on winter roads.

4th of July Holiday Driving Hazards

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “more people die in motor vehicle crashes on Independence Day than any other day of the year.”

Death doesn’t take a day off.  Dangers are mostly due to the increased amount of traffic on the roadways – an estimated 37.5 million people are projected to hit the road and jam the highways during this holiday weekend, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). This increased risk is partially due to the fact that the 4th of July is often a “4-day weekend” with frequent travels to the beach and warm getaways.  

While driving under the influence is often the biggest culprit when it comes to auto accidents, experts say that there are other hazards associated with holidays that are equally as dangerous.  

Holiday Driving Hazards

Crash, Boom, Bang! Of Fireworks

It’s no secret that there are an abundance of Firework displays on the 4th of July. After listening to the roar of fireworks, your ears may still be ringing when you get in the car and could potentially drown out the noise of sirens, horns, or other roadway sounds. Fireworks can also cause visual distortions for a short period, so it’s recommended that if possible, you wait 20-30 minutes after the fireworks show to get in your car and drive.  

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Many travelers drive through the night to get to their destination, so it’s common for drivers to get weary while driving.  It’s also common for people to stay up late packing or getting up early to hit the road, which can impact the proper amount of sleep a driver gets the night before.  Not getting a full recommended 7 hours of sleep the night before nearly doubles your chances of getting in an accident.

If you are travelling a long distance, stop every 200-300 miles at a rest stop to get out and stretch or even take a cat-nap to refuel before continuing your journey.  Police reports that nearly 100,000 crashes per year are the results of driver fatigue.

Distracted Driving

Even if you think you are being safe driving “hands free,” an AAA survey shows that sending text message using voice commands can be just as distracting as regular texting.  Getting distracted with visuals on your dashboard or console also prove to be highly distracting, and can take driver’s attention away for up to 27 seconds. Even driving at 25 mph (about ⅓ the speed of most highway limits), that’s long enough to travel up to the length of 3 football fields and plenty far enough to put you and other cars around you in danger.  

Using cruise control may not be the best idea either if you are travelling long distances because it can cause you to lose focus on the road and your surroundings.

Driving While Dehydrated

Spending time out in the sun, playing outdoor summer games of flag football or volleyball, and even having a beer or two at a BBQ can cause you be dehydrated in the summer heat.  July tends to be one of the hottest months of year and it’s often difficult to tell when your body is dehydrated until it’s too late.

Dehydration can mimic the effects of alcohol – its can slow down your reaction time and increase fatigue.

Driving Alone

Believe it or not, driving alone can decrease your road performance.  Your passenger is likely to help you stay focused by texting for you or taking phone calls instead of the driver.  Women are generally better at this, says Chris Hayes of Travelers Insurance, because women will speak up when they are driving in the car with a distracted driver.  Having another person in the car also means you can share the driving responsibilities, so there’s less of a chance of driving while tired or distracted.

So if you are traveling on or around the 4th of July, be sure to get a good night’s rest the night before, and stay hydrated and alert during your travels.  Even you are being safe, being aware of your surroundings is still incredibly important – other drivers may be driving while intoxicated or distracted.

Happy 4th of July!!!