Driving in winter conditions such as ice or snow can be challenging. In the event of possible winter weather, drivers are encouraged to stay tuned to weather forecasts prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Motorists should delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. Before departing, drivers should let others know their intended route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
AAA Texas suggests the following tips when drivers encounter possible winter weather conditions:
Prepare Your Vehicle for Use in Ice and Snow
Before traveling in wintery conditions, it’s important to prepare your car for the weather. A vehicle owner’s manual can help determine your winter maintenance requirements. Some things to consider include inspecting the battery, ignition system, lights, brake system, tires, exhaust system, heating and cooling system, windshield wipers, washer and glass. Some items can be inspected by a car owner, but others should be performed by a certified technician. To locate a nearby AAA-approved repair shop visit AAA.com/Repair. The AAA Approved Auto Repair program is a free public service that helps motorists identify high-quality auto repair facilities they can trust to work on their vehicle.
Drive Distraction Free
It’s important when driving in winter conditions to drive distraction-free and in the right frame of mind. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash. AAA Texas recommends if you’re driving with a passenger, ask for the passenger’s help to carry out activities that would otherwise distract you from driving safely.
Feeling fatigued is especially dangerous when operating a vehicle. Sleepiness slows a driver’s reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol. AAA Texas recommends drivers get at least seven hours of sleep the night before a long trip and schedule breaks every two hours or 100 miles during travel.
Do Not Use Cruise Control and Avoid Tailgating
Following distances of three to four seconds for dry pavement should be increased to eight to 10 seconds when driving on icy, slippery surfaces. The extra time will allow for extra braking distance should a sudden stop become necessary. If driving on a four-lane highway, stay in the clearest lane; avoid changing lanes and driving over built-up snow or ice. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery (wet, ice, snow, sand) surface; not using cruise control will allow you to respond instantly when you lift your foot off the accelerator.
Know When to Brake and When to Steer
Some driving situations require abrupt action to avoid a crash or collision and in winter conditions the decision to steer or brake can have very different outcomes. When traveling more than 25 mph, AAA Texas recommends steering over braking to avoid a collision in winter-like conditions, as less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of vehicle control.
However, sometimes steering is not an option. Braking on slippery surfaces requires you to look further head and increase following and stopping distances. Plan stopping distances as early as possible and always look 20-30 seconds ahead of your vehicle to ensure you have time and space to stop safely. Shaded spots, bridges, overpasses and intersections are areas where ice is likely to form first and will be the most slippery. It is important to adjust your braking habits as road conditions change.
Stay in Control Through a Skid
Even careful and experienced drivers can skid on slippery surfaces. When a vehicle begins to skid, it’s important not to panic and follow these basic steps:
Continue to look and steer in the direction you want the car to go.
Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
Additional Winter Driving Safety Tips from AAA Texas
Use your safety belt every time you get in the vehicle.
Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running.
Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
Always look and steer where you want to go.
Additional information on driving in winter conditions can be found in the online AAA brochure How to Go on Ice and Snow.
AAA Texas members needing assistance can request roadside rescue at 1-800-222-4357 or 1-800-AAA-HELP. As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.