Staying Safe on the Roads this Winter

snow in ips


Come wintertime, driving becomes a constant danger, especially with teenagers and inexperienced drivers on the road.    Because of this, there are many driving precautions that need to be taken.  It is important that every driver take these precautions because it will help reduce crashes in the winter.

To start, you need to have proper tires on your vehicle.  For adequate snow traction, a tire requires at least 6/32-inch deep tread.  You are better off just buying snow tires if you live in an area where snow is common.  Snow tires have very deep tread with small bits of metal embedded in the rubber in order to increase traction on slippery surfaces.  All-season tires and summer tires do not provide adequate traction.  “I had all-season tires and thought I would be fine for the winter, but I quickly realized that this was not the case when I had to buy snow tires”, said Rob Sirois, an officer at the Lynn Police Department.  Snow tires can be identified by a snowflake and a mountain, located on the sidewall of the tire.

Good traction means nothing if you cannot see out of your windshield.  Replace windshield wiper blades. Clean the inside of your windows thoroughly. Apply a water-shedding material, such as Rain-X, to the outside of all windows, including the mirrors. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid.  “My parents always told me to check the windshield wiper fluid in the winter because that is when we use it most”, said Ryan Fantasia, a senior at Ipswich High School.  You can drain older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears. Switching fluid colors makes this easy.

When faced with frost and condensation on your windshield, engage your air-conditioner.  Select the fresh air option and make sure the temperature is on hot.  Newer cars will automatically do this because it is more effective than just turning on the heat.   The air conditioning will send more air out of your vents, which will defrost the window quicker.

Before driving anywhere, make sure both of your headlights are working properly.  This will increase your visibility but more importantly it will allow others to see you.  Headlights will also help you watch the road for any type of ice.  You need to be extra careful of black ice because it cannot be seen easily and is very slippery.  Make sure you drive carefully especially over spots that look wet.

If a slick section in a turn causes your front tires to lose grip the common, but incorrect, reaction is to continue turning the steering wheel. That’s like writing checks on an overdrawn account, it won’t improve the situation and may make things worse.  If the icy conditions end and the front tires regain grip, your car will dart whichever way the wheels are pointed, which may be into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole. Something very similar happens if you steer too much while braking with ABS.  Sadly, there are situations where nothing will prevent a crash, but it is important to remember that turning the steering wheel too much never helps.

All-wheel drive and electronic stability control can get you into trouble by offering a false sense of security. AWD can only help a vehicle accelerate or keep moving. It can’t help you go around a snow-covered turn, much less stop at an icy intersection. ESC can prevent a spinout, but it can’t clear ice from the roads or give your tires more traction. Don’t let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.

There are also many things you should have in your vehicle at all times.  The first is a blanket because you need to keep warm if your car will not start.  Second is a snow shovel in case you get stuck and need to dig yourself out.  Third is a flashlight in case you breakdown at night.  Fourth are hand warmers in case your hands get cold working on the engine.  Fifth is a bottle of water, and a few protein snacks in case you are stranded for a night.  Sixth is a syphon pump that can be used to transfer gas from one car to another.  And lastly, you should carry flares with you in case you need to make a distress signal.

Driving in the winter can be a fun and beautiful thing if you do it safely.  You can never be too safe so don’t be afraid to take extra precautions to ensure safety.