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Defensive Driving Tip 14 – Winter Driving

Until Global Warming totally kicks in and we kill off Father Winter for good, we will have to deal with driving in winter weather conditions. Though it is dangerous, it still can be accomplished safely. It just takes some planning and action, both before and during the task.

Here are some tips to remember before you get behind the wheel in the dead of winter.:

Before you even attempt to go out in these conditions, make sure that your car is ready for winter driving. Have your antifreeze/coolant mixture checked, the battery cables free from corrosion, all of the belts and hoses must be strong and in working order. The wiper blades must have good live rubber, without worn spots, breaks or tears. Winter weather is just as hard on the metals and plastics of your car as they are on you. Everything under the hood and exposed to the elements should be in working order.

Just be careful what exactly you expose to the elements. Frostbite is painful.

Clean off all the snow and ice from the windshield and lights. The better you can see, the safer it will be driving and the better other drivers can see you, the safer the roads generally become.

Keep at least half a tank of gas in the auto at all times. Gunk and water sometimes get mixed in with the gasoline causing a chance of a frozen gas line. There are additive gas products available at the local auto parts which will ensure a frozen line will not happen. You do not want to turn your gasoline into a blended daiquiri.

Make sure that your cell phone is fully charged then turn it off. A cell phone is a distraction and the driver must concentrate on the driving task. The same thing goes for the radio, turn it off. The biggest distraction is talking to another passenger in the car, so putting passengers in the trunk would be a the best remedy for the situation. Start with your mother-in-law.

Know where you are going before you put the key in the ignition. This is not a time to be checking maps or the GPS. Plan your route before you get behind the wheel. Also, if you can drive in the daytime, do so. Night driving in the snow becomes an exponential problem. Night driving while blindfolded is a super exponential problem and a Fear Factor challenge.

And most importantly, put on your seat belt. Safety first. Danger last.

For long term winter driving, a winter car care kit is essential. Here is a check list of items to have in the car, just in case you are stuck in the elements for an extended period. They include:

1. a flashlight (with extra batteries)
2. a shovel
3. a bad of sand or kitty litter–for traction
4. road flares
5. jumper cables
6. blankets
7. a change of clothes
8. food and water
9. a towing chain or ropes
10. matches

Here is a list of things you do not need in a winter car care kit:

1 Suntan lotion
2. Insecticide
3. Cocktail umbrella
4. Hula skirt
5. Mambo records

Realize that it will take up to 12 times longer to stop in the ice and snow.
Adjust your stopping distance accordingly.

Now that you and your car are set to drive, here are a few tips to survive on the road.

First, turn on all running lights. It is better to see and be seen. A well lit object is easier seen than a darkened one. If you don't believe that is true.play baseball at night.

Realize that driving in the ice and show will take longer and plan your time accordingly. Think like the tortoise, slow and steady wins the race. Drive the same speed as the main flow of traffic, never passing or weaving from lane to lane. This is not a race and you are not an Indy driver.

Drive with both hands on the wheel. Two hands means better control. Three hands would be the best control. Four hands is just overkill.

Downshift the vehicle instead of using the brakes as a way to slow down. Braking should be done in a smooth and light manner, slow and steady for maximum effect. Anti-lock brakes keep a car from skidding from side to side, they are not super reactive braking systems. Technically, ABS are actually an Anti Skid System. But nobody wants the initials for an Anti Skid System on their car.

Realize that it will take up to 12 times longer to stop in the ice and snow. Adjust your stopping distance accordingly.

Give yourself as much space as possible. The three-second rule for following distance should be quadrupled. When the weather is really bad, I use the 20 minute rule: -I want to be in the house 20 minutes before the bad weather happens. This is also known as the hot cocoa rule, meaning any weather problem can be solved with hot cocoa and a warm blanket.

Adjust your speed for the current weather conditions and anticipate difficult and dangerous situations. Even the best and most experienced drivers get caught in bad weather. If you anticipate the task before you even get behind the wheel and prepare your car and yourself; driving in snowy conditions can be done safely.


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