Check the weather forecast and road condition before heading out on a winter road trip. It is even advisable to check the road report before driving to work in the morning. Local radio stations usually offer this information on a regular basis in the morning prior to you leaving the house. Make sure you leave enough time to make the trip safely.
The most important winter driving tip: SLOW DOWN. In winter the roads can be slippery and just how slippery will depend on the weather and how much road maintenance (sanding, salting and snow removal) has already taken place.
10 Tips for Safe Winter Driving
1. Accelerate slowly and gently, especially after stopping or in slippery conditions.
2. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake. Use a lower gear to slow your vehicle.
3. Decelerate even more slowly and gently, and plan to stop at a point about ten feet farther back than you usually would, to give room to slide if the road is slippery.
4. Do not use cruise control on slippery roads.
5. Drive slowly. Don’t drive the speed limit until you feel confident that road conditions warrant it; in very poor winter driving conditions, you will find that almost everyone drives 20 to 30 km/hr below the posted speed limit.
6. Keep your lights and windshield clean, to make it easier to see road conditions ahead.
7. If visibility is very poor, use your four-way flashers to warn the vehicles approaching from behind that you are moving very slowly.
8. In Volkswagens, the Daytime Running Lights do not turn on your tail lights. During reduced visibility during the daytime remember to TURN ON your lights so that drivers behind you know you are on the road.
9. ABS (anti-lock braking system) allows you to concentrate on steering. Press and hold your foot on the brake, DO NOT PUMP the brakes. ABS gives you a LONGER braking distance with more control on steering.
10. ESP (electronic stability program) on equipped VW models is a mechanism inside the steering wheel. There is a sensor that reads the direction of the steering wheel and moves you where you want to go. If you start to skid out of control DO NOT overcompensate by turning the steering wheel one direction and then the other. Hold the steering wheel firmly and point it on the road where you want the car to be steered.
7 Ways to Prepare for Driving this Winter
Use winter tires once the temperature drops below +70C. Snow tires will give you better traction on both snow and ice.
Be sure to have warm mittens in your vehicle. If you get stranded a thin pair of gloves will not keep your hands warm.
Allow time for your car to warm up and for the windows to defog. When you enter a cold car and turn it on, your warm breath and the interior heater will cause the windows to fog over (since the windows are as cold as the outside temperature). While the car is in idle turn on your front and rear defog and turn your fan to high. To reduce the time it takes for the windows to defog make sure you have the air circulation set to fresh air (not recirculation). This will get rid of the humid air in the vehicle which may cause the windows to fog.
Ensure that the vents are directed toward the windows and not toward the occupants. Once the windows have defogged you can move the vents toward the occupants. Lowering the sun visors helps defrost the windows faster.
While your windows are defogging clear off the outside of your vehicle. Snow on your hood will blow up onto the windshield when you drive, reducing visibility. Snow on the roof can come down over the windshield or rear window when you stop or accelerate. Scrape ice off all the windows so that you have optimal visibility. Also clear the snow from the wiper well so that the wipers do not pick up snow while working. Make sure that your side mirrors, headlights and taillights are also clear of snow (as you want other drivers to be able to see you).
If the weather starts to warm there will be an increase in slush on the road, which in turn will spray up to your windshield. Be sure to keep the windshield fluid reservoir full, especially on long trips. You may want to keep a spare jug of windshield fluid in the trunk during the winter months.
Clear the accumulated snow and ice from the wheel wells once you have driven in the snow. If the buildup is too great it can interfere with steering.
Bring along your sunglasses because on a clear winter day when the sun is shining there will be a very bright reflection from the snow making it difficult for you to see.
Remember: slow down and leave a lot of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.