The winter solstice officially started on December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in the northern half of the world, that means winter is here. And this past holiday weather that took much of the country by storm is a subtle reminder of just how powerful Jack Frost can be this time of year.
Winter is a time for building snowmen, drinking hot chocolate, bundling up in big puffy jackets, and unfortunately, driving on icy roads. Driving conditions can become quite hazardous during the winter, when black ice and snow drifts plague city streets and highways.
It can be very dangerous to drive in these conditions. However, if you follow the safety precautions below, you will be better prepared to drive in these wintry conditions.
1. Drive slower than usual. Just because the speed limit is 45 mph, doesn’t mean you should drive 45 mph. The actual speed limit in all states is “what is safe for the conditions.” That’s one of the few things I remember from driver’s education. So, drive as slow as you need to in order to stay in control of your vehicle.
2. Give people some space. Do not tailgate or drive closely behind another car. Accidents can happen in a matter of seconds. The more distance between you and the next car, the more time you’ll have to react.
3. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, brake slowly in a tapping motion. Anti-lock brakes do this for you, but standard brakes do not. By applying the brake and then letting off the brake, you reduce the risk of your brakes locking up and your car skidding out of control.
4. Cars have high gears and low gears. When the roads are icy or covered in snow, use the lower gears. This gives your car more traction, which is incredibly important on hills.
5. Do not use your cruise control. If you are using cruise control, you might be caught unexpectedly when you hit an icy patch and are going a constant speed that is higher than the conditions allow you to drive safely. Stay in control of your speed manually and do not rely on cruise control.
6. Make sure your headlights are turned on. Even if it doesn’t increase your visibility, it will make you more visible to other drivers, which could prevent them from accidentally hitting you.
7. Don’t overestimate your driving abilities or your car’s abilities. Just because you have a four-wheel drive vehicle or grew up in Northern Canada does not mean you can get careless on winter roads.
Take your time and don’t rush yourself when driving on wintry roads. Don’t overestimate what you can handle, because conditions can change in seconds and you can easily end up in a ditch or in the other lane. It’s also a good idea to carry a blanket and an extra jacket in your car, just in case you end up stranded for a while. If you want to be extra prepared, have a few non-perishable food items in your car as well. Sometimes people get stranded in their cars for days, so it’s best to be prepared.