Winter driving is coming: stay safe with these tips

  • 3 min to read
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With the temperatures and snow falling, it is more important than ever to change your driving habits to account for the dangerous road conditions.

Getting in an accident that could’ve been prevented is all too common in the winter months. It is essential that you tailor your driving habits to the conditions that will be present for the next few months.

Many new students at Doane have never had to drive in the snow. It is a new and nerve-wracking experience that can end up with serious consequences. There is no need to be scared about the inevitable ice that will end up on the road, as long as you take care and acknowledge it through changed driving habits.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is more to winter driving conditions than the driving itself, it’s also about the preparation you can do for the winter months.

First and foremost, the NHTSA said you should get your car serviced and checked on. There is no worse time to have car trouble than in the winter months, where getting help takes a significantly longer period of time than the rest of the year. 

One of the easiest things a car owner can do that often gets overlooked is stocking up their car. Useful items can often be the difference between being able to get out of a snowy situation and having to call a tow truck.

One of the first things you should have in your car is an ice scraper so that you as the driver can get rid of all the snow and ice that may have built up on your windshield since the last time you drove. 

Additional items you might want to have in your car are jumper cables, flashlights and warning devices such as flares and road signs. This gives you the ability to alert other people as to what’s happening. 

An item many people overlook is something like sand or cat litter, which helps give your tires the extra traction they need to get out of sketchy situations.

Blankets are essential, just in case your car trouble is more severe and you lose access to heat in your car.

Water and food are pivotal to keep in your car, as they can be necessary in times where you could be stranded for hours at a time.

Many students commonly travel to Lincoln and this is where the utmost caution must be used. When traveling anywhere, it is important to have your destination planned out. Every smartphone has a map app that can get you to your location. It is a vital tool in these winter months.

Don’t feel as though you must go the speed limit because black ice is a serious danger and can truly ruin your vehicle and day. Even if someone is driving behind you aggressively, let them pass and go at a speed that you are comfortable with. Often in Nebraska, cars will be going 20 mph down the highway because the conditions are so bad.

Making sure your tires are good for winter is important too. Snow tires are a great asset to have when driving in the winter. If you are unable to get winter tires, make sure your current tires aren’t too worn down and still have enough traction to keep you safe.

With ice and high winds present, it is imperative that you focus solely on driving. Texting and driving should never be done, but it is even more dangerous in the winter months, where the road can change in the blink of an eye.

Make sure you have gas, not only because it will get you to your destination, but it can keep you warm in the worst-case scenario.

Find out if your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS). Most modern-day cars have this feature, which prevents your brakes from locking up and your car sliding into a ditch or another car. With anti-lock brakes, there is no need to do anything specific to brake when on ice, just keep firm pressure on the brake pedal. If your car does not have an ABS system, all you need to do is pump your brakes if you begin to slide.

At the end of the day, things happen that are out of our control, so if you do find yourself stuck in the snow, follow these steps, courtesy of the NHTSA:

  • Stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself by trying to get yourself unstuck

  • Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light turned on

  • To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm

Everyone is encouraged to be safe and drive carefully. Make sure you look out for your own safety and the safety of those in your car. Be wary of the ice that you might not see and drive as if there is always a chance of black ice on the road. Also, be courteous to other drivers as they will generally show you the same consideration.