Thoughts on Winter Driving

We are all used to hearing people tell us how to drive in the snow and on the ice. “Steer into a skid, accelerate and decelerate gently,” etc. Good advice but the truth is, in a panic situation you do what you train for and chances are good that unless you’ve practiced, that good advice won’t be a lot of help when you suddenly find yourself skidding out of control across three lanes of traffic. Slippery weather driving skills can ony be mastered in slippery weather and preferably in a controlled environment with no other traffic and enough space to safely practice turning, braking and accelerating without any danger to persons or property. Of course, it’s probably not a good idea for your insurance guy (me) to send you out looking for someplace to skid and do donuts with your car. It’s always best to just stay home when the roads are bad. Remember, having an accident in bad driving conditions has the same awful consequences for your insurance rates (and driving record) as crashing on dry pavement. For now let’s just look at another winter driving safety factor …. the possiblity of getting stuck or breaking down in extreme weather. Most of us know that when the engine stops, the heat stops. If you’re out in the boonies, out of cell phone coverage or with snow blocking a rescue, this is a potentially deadly situation. Gentlemen, this is especially important to think about for your wives and daughters: You don’t want them to be forced into the situation of having to get in a vehicle with a stranger or approach a stranger’s home for help, especially at night. In the winter your car should not leave the driveway without some basic cold weather survival gear. A good heavy quilt or blanket should stay in the trunk. This can also come in handy if you encounter an accident where someone needs to be kept warm until help arrives. If you’re not already wearing them, snow boots, gloves and a heavy coat should always be in automobile along with a good flashlight. We all carry cell phones these days but it’s no good if the battery dies while you’re trying to get help. Make sure a car charger for your phone stays in the car. Of course the best survival plan is to avoid getting into a deadly situation. Make sure your car is well-maintained, especially the battery, cooling system and tires. Most auto shops can do a capacity check of your battery. This is not just checking the voltage. If you get a blank stare when you ask for a capacity check of the battery, go somplace else for the work. Modern car batteries last a long time and they are very reliable but they sometimes give almost no warning before failing. A capacity check can let you know a battery needs replaced before you find yourself standing alone in a dark, cold, snow covered parking lot with a car that won’t start and a fast cooling pizza on the back seat. Be prepared. Be safe.

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