Now is the time of year to not only knock the dust off your ice scrapers and mittens, but also to prepare your vehicle and driving habits for the approaching winter weather season. Before you venture out in the ice and snow this winter, we would like to share a few winter driving tips to ensure a safe driving experience for you and your family.
Before venturing out onto the roadway, make sure a few basic vehicle maintenance items can be checked off your list. These can easily be done at home or at your local car maintenance facility:
- Make sure your breaks are in good working order
- Make sure your headlights, tail lights and signal lights are visible
- Check your tires for tread wear and proper inflation including your spare tire
- Check the condition of your windshield wipers and washer fluid level
- Make sure your battery is in excellent condition and free of corrosion on the terminals
- Consider switching to lighter grade motor oil during the winter months and make sure your oil levels are correct
- Make sure your radiator coolant is filled and your hoses are firm and leak-free
- Consider keeping an emergency survival kit in the trunk of your car in case you get stranded and have to wait in your vehicle for help
ACOG recommends your survival kit include a cell phone, blankets or an extra coat, a small shovel and a bag of cat litter for traction if you get stuck, safety flares, flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, a red flag or cloth to signal for help, bottled water, non-perishable food and first aid supplies.
It is important to find out about the most current driving and weather conditions where you are and where you are going. Prepare yourself to drive defensively and understand that you might encounter roads that are covered in snow and ice. Know that it might take you twice as long to get to your destination as normal and remain patient to keep your stress level down while driving on road conditions you are not used to.
While on the road, we recommend driving at slower speeds and always buckle your seat belt. Take note of the speed of the vehicle in front of you and adjust your speed accordingly. Also, look farther ahead in traffic. Action by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra time to react. Don’t be over-confident if you are in a four-wheel drive vehicle or “are used to driving” in the ice and snow. Chances are most people on the Oklahoma roadways are not from New England and will become more nervous on an icy road if a rogue vehicle zooms by. Turn on your lights to make yourself more visible to the cars around you. Plan your trip by avoiding streets that are hazardous in bad weather, such as those with hills, dangerous curves and heavy traffic. Take extra caution on bridges or overpasses that will freeze faster and may be more slippery when the roads are wet. Brake slowly and avoid making sudden moves with the brakes, steering wheel or accelerator. Finally, listen to traveler’s advisories and weather reports during your travel. Be prepared to stay off the roads if advised to do so.
If you do get stuck, stay with your car unless there is a house in sight. Make sure your exhaust pipes are free of snow. Put on layers of clothing and wrap in a blanket. Keep your blood circulating by clapping your hands and stomping your feet. Crack a window for ventilation and watch for other vehicles on the road and be ready to signal them for help.
If it is necessary for you to drive on icy or snow-covered roads, follow the link for designated snow routes throughout Central Oklahoma. When driving, please be aware of the snow plows and sand trucks. These large trucks are usually spreading anti-icing materials from the back of the truck and my need to stop or take evasive action to avoid stranded vehicles. If you find yourself stuck behind a sand truck, stay behind it or use extreme caution when passing. Plows turn and exit the roadway frequently. Give them plenty of room and stay behind at a safe length. Snow plows can throw up a cloud of snow that can reduce your visibility and temporarily restrict the plow driver’s field of vision. You may see them but that does not always mean they can see you.
Whether you are a 10-year veteran of ice trucking or a first-time driver, ice and snow does not discriminate. Take caution while driving in ice and snow, and be prepared.