BLIZZARD TIPS: DRIVING IN SNOW
What to do if you encounter a severe snowstorm on the road
By Jordan Mendoza
Blizzards can involve blinding whiteout conditions, subzero wind chills and road-burying snowfall. It’s best to stay off the streets when a blizzard is forecast, but if you are already driving when the snow starts to come down, follow these tips.
SLOW DOWN AND MAINTAIN DISTANCESlow down to counteract slippery roads. Remember, all-wheel drive helps acceleration, not traction for steering or braking. So keep a safe distance from other vehicles to give yourself more time to react.
PREPARE FOR GUSTSBe wary of strong winds, as they can push your vehicle and others off course—or throw trees into your path. Slow down if a gale pushes your car, and keep both hands on the wheel. Be extra vigilant near broad-sided, taller vehicles, which are more likely to be affected by wind.
MAINTAIN MOMENTUMTake advantage of momentum while you have it by accelerating gently and sticking to a steady pace, even if just crawling. Once you stop, it might be hard to get going again.
SAFELY SPEED UP BEFORE HILLSTo get up a hill, don’t suddenly hit the gas, or you could end up spinning your wheels. Instead speed up gradually before you reach the incline, and let your car’s forward motion help carry it up and over.
BRAKE EARLIERStart braking earlier because it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
IF IT’S A WHITEOUT...In whiteout conditions, use your low beams, because high beams can refract off the snow, making it harder for you to see. If your vehicle has fog lights, turn them on. If visibility decreases drastically, don’t stop in the middle of the road; you could cause a pileup. Instead, pull over to a safe area, completely off the road, then turn on the emergency flashers, or hazard lights.
PLAN AHEADYou’ll be safer if you prepare for the worst ahead of time. Before you go out:
- CHECK YOUR TIRES: Make sure your vehicle’s tires have adequate tread by looking for the tires’ built-in wear indicators, which will appear level with the tread when it’s time to replace the tires. And inflate the tires to the proper pressure—tire pressure drops considerably in cold weather.
- FILL UP THE CAR’S FLUIDS: It’s important to regularly fill up your coolant, or antifreeze. If the car runs out of coolant, the engine block could crack. And fill up your windshield wiper fluid, using a fluid with the necessary freeze protection for your area.
- EXAMINE YOUR WIPERS: Lift the wipers off the windshield and look at them closely. Replace them if the rubber is cracked, broken or falling off.
- TAKE AN EMERGENCY KIT: Prepare a winter emergency kit for the trunk and check it regularly, making sure your portable jump starter and spare cell phone are charged. (Often 911 calls will go through even if the phone has no service plan.) The kit should include: Tire chains, road salt or kitty litter for traction, jumper cables, jump starter, cell phone, phone charger, small shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, rags or paper, towels, blankets, flares, bottled water and energy bars.
- MONITOR THE FORECAST: Always keep on top of your local forecast and stay off the road when there are advisories. Give yourself extra time to travel slowly and safely. And before you hit the road, let your family or friends know where you’re headed, so they can alert the authorities if you don’t make it there in due time. Stay safe!