With the colder temperatures of late fall and winter just around the corner, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable and get both you and your vehicle ready for a distinctive season of driving.
Winter conditions are unique and winter driving requires specialized equipment and techniques. The old adage of “better safe than sorry” lends itself quite well for driving in winter.
The most important safety feature of any vehicle is the driver so we’ll look at preparing the driver first and then talk about getting your vehicle equipped to handle the harsh conditions.
1. If you are unsure of how to drive in winter conditions or lack confidence, enroll in a specialized winter driving school to help you learn limited traction driving skills. Road conditions can change drastically in a matter of metres and drivers must be able adapt to driving situations with limited traction. The safest winter vehicle can still easily end up in the ditch with a poorly trained driver.
2. Motorists have to focus on driving in order to see changing conditions and then process that information into prudent driving adjustments. Do not allow yourself to become distracted by cell phones, navigation aids or even your passengers. It’s critical to pay attention to your driving environment.
3. One of the contributing causes of winter crashes is cold weather attire. Never drive wearing winter boots or coats. Motorists wearing winter boots have often stepped on both the brake and gas pedals at the same time, causing crashes. After removing all the snow and ice from your vehicle, take off your winter coat and boots and drive wearing thin-soled shoes. This will allow you to feel exactly how much pedal pressure you are applying and to which pedals.
A sweater or light coat will make you more comfortable and will reduce fatigue. The added resistance from a bulky winter coat is counterproductive to applying smooth steering corrections to remain in control. Seat belts rarely fit properly over winter coats, increasing the chance of injury in a crash. Never drive while wearing wool or cotton mitts. Use leather-palmed gloves to prevent your hands from slipping on the steering wheel.
4. Should you encounter whiteout conditions, don’t continue on blindly. If the vehicles in front of you disappear into a wall of blowing snow, do not follow them into it. Pull off the road and wait for visibility to improve.
5. Learn when to say “No.” Check the expected weather conditions before you drive anywhere. If the meteorologists predict freezing rain, snow or bad driving conditions, stay home. No destination, not even driving into work, is worth risking your life for.
Now for your vehicle:
1. Tires are the most underrated safety feature of your vehicle as they are responsible for transmitting all your driving requirements to the road. Installing four winter tires on your vehicle is an excellent start. For maximum safety, all vehicles, including all wheel drive (AWD) should have four winter tires. Never install only two winter tires. These specialized tires retain their grip in cold temperatures when all season tires begin to lose traction. Tests show winter tires offer the driver up to 40 per cent more grip in cold weather driving.
At this time of year, it’s a good idea to remind drivers with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive that this technology is not a safety feature. AWD is a performance feature that only enhances acceleration, not cornering or braking grip. It is a common misconception that AWD will make you safer when conditions deteriorate. The added grip for acceleration can lead to over-confidence, which can lead to a tendency to drive faster than conditions warrant.
2. Vision and visibility are vital to safe driving. Your windshield washer nozzles should be clear and aimed at the windshield. Wiper blades should be replaced and you must remember to top up the windshield washer antifreeze. Have a good quality pair of sunglasses within easy reach to reduce road glare on wet winter roads during sunny days.
3. Know how to clear fog or frost off the inside of your windows efficiently. Use your air conditioner in the winter as an effective dehumidifier. Clean the snow and slush off your shoes before getting in to reduce the level of moisture inside your vehicle.
4. Snow and spray off the roads can easily conceal your vehicle from view so be sure all your lights are working properly to ensure your vehicle will be more visible
5. Make sure your battery is in good shape and clean the battery terminals and cables. Synthetic oils do not congeal in cold weather like conventional oils do, aiding in starting and lubrication at cold temperatures.
Every driver, including truckers and those with AWD, should always remember the “Golden Rule” of driving. When traction decreases, so should your speed.
- Source: Wheels.ca
- Author: Ian Law
- Date Posted: November 3, 2010