Overcoming slippery roads throughout winter months

winter-roadsBy Feature Editor: Hannah Snyder

Receiving a driver’s license results in great responsibility. For students who have recently started driving, they’re unprepared for the winter months ahead. Driving through a thick blizzard is much harder than driving in the summer when the windows are down and music is blasting. According to the United States Federal Highway Administration, approximately 1,511,000 weather related crashes occur each year.  Follow these few basic tips in order to stay safe this upcoming winter.

Have regular car check-ups

Having bad breaks in the summer isn’t the end of the world. During the winter though, it’s a whole different story. The driver needs to have more than just driving experience to safely overcome the winter weather; they are also going to need a stable car. Before the winter season hits drivers should take their car in for an inspection. Belts, spark plugs and water pumps need to be functioning properly in order to have a secure car. Another thing that needs to be checked on every car before winter is tire pressure. The lower the temperature drops outside, the less amount of pressure each tire will have.  Since 2008, tire pressure monitors have been required on all new vehicles. Most high school students are not privileged enough to have brand new cars, so it’s important to remember to manually check the tire pressure often.

Drive slowly and cautiously

It’s hard to know exactly when ice is present. If the driver does hit ice, they should remain calm.  The driver should instantly take their foot off the accelerator and turn the wheels only enough to keep them pointed in the direction of desired travel. Rashly reacting and turning them more could result in swerving off the road. Also, allow extra travel time during snowstorms. Roads can get slippery unexpectedly so it’s a good idea to always keep a decent amount of space in between other cars. In addition, using turn signals early will help other drivers be alert of slowing down or stopping. Driving in the winter can be extremely difficult in an unfamiliar vehicle. Drivers should avoid driving if they’re not 100% sure exactly how the car will react on the roads.

“Most skids occur when the driver is turning too fast or is stopping suddenly,” says Cindy Burch from Focus Driving Academy.

What to keep in the car

During the winter, extra emergency supplies should be kept in the car. The chances of something going wrong is much more likely in the winter and an emergency kit will come in hand. To be cautious, AAA recommends carrying blankets, flashlights, water, and jumper cables in the car.  The most commonly used tool that a driver should have during the winter is a scraper and brush. Especially here in Michigan, snow is unpredictable. The scraper will allow you to remove excess snow and ice from the car windows, making visibility more clear.  It’s important to remove snow from not just the windshield but also windows and headlights.

Driving in the winter certainly won’t be easy for new drivers. However, eventually the task will become more manageable and easier to handle. It’s crucial to keep calm but also stay cautious of the surroundings.

“Practice driving in open parking lots with snow. Then you will know how your car handles,” Burch says.