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.

Winter Tires Vs. All-Season Tires

There are a lot of questions that circulate about what kind of tires are recommended going into the winter months. The most common being, “Do I need winter or snow tires?” It’s not uncommon to be confused and frustrated when researching tires online.  There are a lot of different options and a lot of opinions regarding the best brands and tire manufacturers.

Living in the Mid-Atlantic region, snow-covered roads and icy road conditions are common during the winter months. And while it can seem like a hassle and a really large expense to have two sets of tires for your vehicle, but it can be an expense that saves you and your car a lot of damage when the roads get slick.   

Not sure what kind of tires you need? Let’s compare winter tires with all-season tires and see what a huge difference a set of tires can make.

Winter Tires: Made for Ice and Snow

Between heavy snowfalls and black ice, winter roads can be very unpredictable, and scary if you aren’t equipped with the proper tires. Winter tires are made with snow, ice, and wintery conditions in mind. These tires use a specific rubber compound that stay pliable in the cold temperatures. This gives the tire better grip and improved braking when the roads are slick.

The tread pattern on winter tires is larger with deep grooves that pushes the snow away from getting stuck in the tires, preventing the snow from getting stuck in the tread. This allows for greater grip and traction.  

Regardless of whether you have a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle, winter tires should only be installed as a set of four. Using two different kinds of tires can cause poor handling, safety, and vehicle control, not to mention the tires will wear down unevenly.  

All-Season Tires: Made for Moderate Temperatures

All-season tires are built to handle a variety of road conditions: dry, wet, and even light snow. But as temperatures drop, these tires will harden. This creates less traction between your tires and the road, leading to sliding and skidding on harsh winter roads.

The tread on all-season tires is designed for traction in all types of moderate weather – rain, dry, and slight snow. Unlike winter tires, they are not designed with the deep-grooved tread. However, because they have smaller tread, all-season tires generally provide a smoother ride and have become the standard on vehicles.  

If you don’t live in an area that typically sees a lot of snow, tires that handle better in wet conditions and provide maximum traction on wet roads are your safest choice.