Snow, ice, and below freezing temperatures all influence winter driving conditions. During winter, the safety of yourself and others depends on driver performance in winter conditions, good vehicle maintenance, and common sense. Below are some tips that will assist you during this winter season.
When planning a trip in the winter months, try to use common sense. An accident can happen whether you’re on a two-hour drive to Colorado Springs or a short jaunt to a doctor’s appointment. Pay attention to the weather reports and decide if the trip is necessary.
Always allow extra time to arrive at your destination. Trips can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads. Driving in inclement weather can be stressful enough without the added pressure of being late, which typically influences your driving behavior.
Make sure you are driving extra carefully. Failure to remain in the proper lane, running off the road, and driving too fast for conditions are three of the most frequent mistakes we see this time of the year. Drive slowly,because accelerating, stopping, and turning all take longer on snow-covered or icy roads. Always leave more distance than usual between your vehicle and the one in front of you and give yourself more time to come to a complete stop. Be careful when driving over bridges and roadways that aren’t exposed to sunlight because these surfaces can be icy when other areas are not.
If you are an adult or a parent of inexperienced drivers, make sure everyone understands how your car behaves in the snow. Features like anti-lock brakes and all-weather tires can be advantageous, but every car performs differently. Take the time to practice stopping, starting, and turning in a big, empty, snow-packed parking lot so you can get the feel of your wheels in the snow. Also, try to drive on roadways with little to no traffic and at slow speeds while you are building your skills.
As far as your vehicle, make sure your battery is charged and working optimally. Cold weather adversely affects battery performance, so check it before the temperature drops. Be sure to keep your gas tank full. Winter weather traffic delays may force you to change routes, turn back around, or sit on the side of the roadway for a while. A fuller gas tank will allow you to handle these types of situations. Consider buying winter wiper blades, which prevent ice and snow from hardening on the wiper. Always make sure your windshield and windows are clear and keep a scraper in your vehicle. It is also important to fill your washer fluid regularly with a winter weather solution. Make sure that your tires have good tread and keep them properly inflated. Both are essential to safe winter driving. All-weather tires are sufficient for some, but the conditions in our area can be much more treacherous so consider winterizing your car with snow tires.
Finally, keep a small bag in your vehicle for emergencies. A small snow shovel and a bag of salt (or kitty litter) will help you dig your wheels out of a ditch and give them traction on snow or ice. I would also add a blanket to keep you warm and a few bottles of water to keep you hydrated in case you get stuck.
Please use common sense and drive slower this winter.
Chief Russell Johnson
Salida Police Department