Important Winter Driving Safety Tips

Winter driving in Durango: Important tips for driving safely in the snow

Last month we talked about getting your car ready for winter.

We reviewed the important maintenance checks that help your car perform efficiently and safely during the winter.

Common sense winter driving safety precautions

Now let’s review the precautions you should take before getting behind the wheel, and when you’re actually sitting behind the wheel throughout the winter months.

Let’s get the well-known steps out of the way first—seatbelt is buckled, eyes are on the road, no distractions, and have an ice scraper and a snow brush in the car.

Most Durango drivers know all of this, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Lesser-known winter driving safety tips and tricks

We’ll break these down into 4 categories:

  1. Driving habits
  2. Road conditions
  3. Clearing your car
  4. Stocking your car

Your driving habits

Leave a little earlier to allow for extra time to reach your destination. In slippery conditions, the roads are unpredictable, and you’ll be driving slower.

Increase the space you would normally leave between you and the car in front of you.

On a slick road, it takes longer to stop, plus you want to avoid slamming on the breaks as this can cause you to lose traction.

Give yourself enough room to break early, and safely roll to a smooth stop.

The same is true for acceleration.

Apply the gas slowly.

Avoid sudden movements that can cause you to lose traction.

If you do end up skidding, remember to steer in the direction of the skid.

Turn the steering wheel in the same direction that the back of the car is moving.

Don’t use cruise control. You want to have complete control over how and when you slow down and accelerate.

Bigger vehicles are heavier.

And heavier vehicles, like trucks, cannot stop as quickly as cars.

Use extra caution when sharing the road with larger cars and trucks.

Speaking of large vehicles, allow the plows to do their job and stay off the roads if possible.

In wintery conditions, your headlights should be on, even during the day.

Having your lights on helps you see the road surface better, and helps other drivers see you.

Use your low beams in snow and fog.

High beams reflect off the water in the air and reduce visibility.

Low beams are more effective to help you see the road and any hazards you may encounter.

Road Conditions

Bridges and overpasses freeze first.

They have cold air above and below, so they freeze before the roads do.

When approaching a bridge or overpass, reduce your speed, and proceed cautiously even if the roads aren’t slippery.

Black ice a transparent layer of ice that is almost impossible to see.

You don’t know it’s there, until it’s too late.

It often forms on bridges and overpasses, and on parts of the road that don’t get a lot of sun.

Be a defensive driver and don’t assume all the roads have the same conditions.

Clearing your car

Remove snow and ice from all windows, lights, mirrors, rear cameras, blind-spots sensors, and other sensors.

Don’t forget about the hood, otherwise snow will be flying at your windshield as you drive.

Clear off the roof before driving off.

That sheet of snow could either slide forward and completely cover your windshield—or fly off the back causing a safety hazard for the driver behind you.

Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow.

When you back up or park, sometimes you hit a snowbank, make sure snow didn’t get packed into your exhaust pipe.

This can cause deadly carbon monoxide (CO) to seep into the interior of your car.

CO is odorless which makes even more dangerous since you can’t detect it.

Stocking your car

Try to keep your gas tank full in case you have to run the car to keep warm.

If you keep the car running for warmth, remember to check the tail pipe.

Having a full tank can also help lessen water vapor building up in your tank, which can freeze when temperatures drop. 

If you have an electric car, keep it fully charged.

In the off chance you do find yourself broken down, keep a blanket, extra socks, gloves, flashlight, snacks, water, and a car charger for your phone.

Keeping sand or kitty litter in the trunk will make the rear of your car heavier, decreasing the chance of fishtailing.

It also helps to use as traction if you’re stuck in the snow.

Using your floor mats for traction is another option.

Keep your windshield washer fluid topped-off. It’s so important for visibility.

If you work from home or stay in during the cold weather—then every few days, go out and turn on your car in a well-ventilated area to make sure your battery stays charged.

Key takeaways

Winter driving can be tough, even for seasoned pros.

It’s always good to hope for the best, but still prepare for the worst.

Slow down, take more time to stop, wear your seat belt, pay attention to the road, and be prepared for changing conditions.

If you don’t know if it’s safe to drive, wait until you know for sure.

And once it’s above freezing, get your car washed, including the undercarriage.

It’ll remove all that corrosive salt, which is needed to keep the roads safe, but it’s not good for your car.

A carwash will also remove the caked-on salt and mud that’s impairing your visibility with your mirrors and windows.

There are so many good things about the winter.

And by taking a few safety precautions, everyone can enjoy it.

Be safe out there.

Check out Cascade Xpress’ affordable Unlimited Carwash Plans.