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Whether it’s your first season driving in the cold or you’re an old hat at navigating the winter wonderland, snow and ice can prove to be a challenge for anyone’s travel plans.  Every day of the week, we’ll all be latched to the weather report to see what conditions we should be expecting, carefully planning out if you should raise your windshield wipers for a snow and how much earlier you need to wake up to dig your car out for work.  The best laid plans can still be thwarted by mother nature, however. Sometimes you’ll be caught out in a storm or encounter a surprise slick of ice. Winter is a dangerous time to be a driver, and it’s best to know what to do beforehand in order to safely navigate over the snow, slush, and ice!  

Know Your Car
For any vehicle, routine maintenance and check-ups keeps it in tip-top shape, and winter is no different.  Always check with your mechanic to be sure your vehicle is prepared for the coming cold, as many require a different viscosity of oil and antifreeze ratio to run most effectively.  It’s good to do a visual inspection of your tires and windshield wipers to know that they’ll be able to take a winter beating, as well. Ensure your tires are properly inflated to be able to perform at their best, and if you live in an area with consistent freezing temperatures and heavy snow, winter tires are especially important to consider to get you through the season.  These special seasonal tires have deeper grooves and softer rubber made to prevent snow-stick, cutting through moisture to give you direct road contact and provide excellent traction.

According to East Hills Jeep of East Hills of Greenvale, NY, some states allow chains on their roads but you should check. While you might be tempted to buy only two winter tires or chains should your vehicle be front- or rear-wheel drive, you should never mix tire types, as the different builds and performance will more likely cause you to lose control of your vehicle.  Windshield wipers similarly have winter models that prevent icy buildup, and there’s antifreeze washer solution that won’t ice over your windshield to help break up frost. Your battery’s remaining charge is important to check, too, as colder temperatures demands more power for your vehicle to start up and function effectively.  

Very few drivers consider how their car may handle in the winter until they’re in the thick of it, and that’s not something you want to figure out on the fly! Thousands of new cars are bought every year, and many teen drivers will be experiencing their first winter this year.  You should experience how best to drive your new vehicle before you put yourself or other drivers in harm’s way.

Even all-wheel drive vehicles won’t be flawless, and you should understand what limitations exist with this drivetrain before false confidence gets you in an accident. It’s easy and safest to drive to an empty section of parking lot to test out how your vehicle handles on snow and ice.  This is a good (and maybe fun) exercise to take your teen first-time winter driver out on, too! Sit passenger and instruct them how to safely make turns and come out of slips, and let them learn how much a vehicle slides to a stop so that they understand how much extra distance they should place between them and the car in front of them on the road.  

Know the Road
Be informed of what conditions you’ll be going out on, and don’t be afraid of cancelling trips or calling out of work if conditions in your area are too severe. If you choose to or need to go out, always drive slower on wet, slushed, or snowed roads, and provide yourself with plenty of room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you in case of a slippery stop.  Distance standard on dry roads–about three or four car lengths – should be doubled or tripled depending on the road conditions and your speed. Acceleration, deceleration, and turns should be done gradually and slowly so your tires have time to grip the surface and retain traction.

Hills are particularly tricky when there’s snow and ice involved. Powering up hills is means to possibly lose control; you want to create and maintain a consistent inertia before and during the upslope, then coast over and down at a slowing rate.  Never stop on snow and ice, and particularly the upslope, as you’ll never be able to easily gain momentum back afterwards. And always plan alternate routes just in case! If a twisty or hilled area is intimidating, if you know an area is prone to accidents, or if certain roads are last to be plowed in your area, then consider navigating around to safer and easier to manage roadways.  Also, be knowledgeable about where puddles tend to gather in your area. Should the temperature fluctuate above then below freezing throughout the day, there’s going to be black ice to look out for.


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