Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Geek!This is Carol Foltz’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

My motto for driving is: I drive like an old lady so I can be one. I don’t mean the drive-45-in-a-55-mph-zone old lady, just that I take reasonable care, I don’t speed and I’m more careful when weather conditions negatively impact driving conditions.

Winter driving seems to baffle some drivers, even though winter keeps returning every year. When the snow flies, common sense flies out the window. Therefore, I present “Carol’s Rules For Safe Winter Driving.”

  1. Make sure you need to go out. If you don’t need to go out, then don’t. If you must go out, make sure you know where you are going and why. Don’t make extra trips.
  2. Realize that the roads are slick and you can’t stop on a dime. Give yourself leeway by slowing down before you get to the intersection. Also, you can’t just start driving. Ease into it a little bit, or you will fishtail. If there is a car next to you, you could hit it if you aren’t careful.
  3. Be careful and assume that everyone else on the road isn’t careful. Act like they are either first-time drivers who don’t know what they are doing or that they are actively trying to kill you with their cars. Stay away from the other drivers. WEAR YOUR SEATBELT!
  4. If you are driving when it’s still snowing, drive slowly with wipers going and your lights on, even if it’s daytime. Having your lights on helps other drivers see you and hopefully avoid you.
  5. If you are driving and get stuck, stay with your car unless it’s falling into a river or something. Don’t get out and start walking to your destination, especially if you are in the country. Don’t make law enforcement start looking for you “between Moorland and Rockwell City,” for example. (Those two towns are about 20 miles apart.)
  6. The usual: Have a winter survival kit in your car, including a shovel. When a bad winter storm hit Iowa in February 2007, I prepared by bringing a suitcase of clothes and things I would need into town when I came to work, with plans to stay at my mom’s apartment until it was safe to go home. I left our only shovel at home, thinking that maybe my family might need it. I could always go to Wal-Mart and get one before going to stay the night at Mom’s, right? Wrong. They closed Wal-Mart. They closed Wal-Mart.
  7. In winter, snow happens. It rarely happens without warning, however. Keep up to date with the weather on a daily basis so you can be prepared. In that memorable storm of 2007, the weather warnings had been in place for days ahead. I had time to think about my plans, pack a suitcase, do extra shopping and so on. I even came into work the night the storm hit, even though I wasn’t scheduled to work that night, so I wouldn’t be driving during the heavy part of the storm. If I had not, I would have been stuck at home for four days because travel was prohibited.
  8. If school is out and businesses are closing, don’t get into your little two-door car and head for the mall. Stay home. (See rule No. 1.) When authorities say that travel is prohibited, take them seriously. As I mentioned before, weather reports can give you an idea ahead of time when the bad storms are coming. If on Saturday, you hear that a bad storm is expected to hit your area on Wednesday, and that warning is repeated on a daily basis, maybe you should do your emergency grocery shopping on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Don’t try to go out Wednesday night after the blizzard hits because you are out of groceries.
  9. Have a cell phone handy. In these days of prepaid cell phones, everyone can afford one. Have a cell phone even if you only use it when you have an emergency in your car. Keep your cell phone charged. Like a spare tire that you have to check periodically to make sure it’s not flat, a cell phone is only good if it’s charged. Be familiar with the basic functions of your cell phone. Which leads to No. 10…
  10. Know where you are. If you absolutely must travel in bad winter weather, have a good idea where you are in case something happens and you have to call 911. It will be easier for law enforcement to find you if you can say you are two miles west of Moorland rather than “somewhere between Moorland and Rockwell City” (see rule No. 5).

Some of these tips are specific to winter driving in climates where snow is the norm. Some of these tips are good year-round no matter where you live. I can’t stress too much the importance of wearing a seatbelt. There have been several accidents in my area this past year with preventable fatalities: the people involved didn’t wear seatbelts and were thrown from their vehicles. Some of these accidents had survivors who could have avoided serious injuries by wearing seatbelts. All of these accidents involved people in their teens and early 20s.

Above all, be careful. Drive like an old geek so you can be one.