It may seem like there’s an art to winter driving. But as many experienced drivers in a winter wonderland like Colorado may attest, it’s mostly just good, old-fashioned common sense—and a great deal of preparation. Indeed, with a handful of tried-and-tested tips and techniques, driving in winter is a lot less daunting and far safer. So without further ado, consider the following:
Make your vehicle winter-friendly.
Driving in winter can be fraught with hazards, such as snow and ice on the road or even limited visibility. It’s only prudent, therefore, to ensure that your vehicle is up to the task of taking on such challenges, which you can do by winterizing your car.
For starters, have your vehicle serviced long before weather conditions turn harsh. This mainly entails checking that your battery, brakes, cooling system, and so forth, are in tip-top shape. In turn, that eliminates the possibility of any of them breaking down in inclement weather.
With that done, you can then move on to the all-important task of switching to winter tires. While all-season tires will suffice more often than not, Bridgestone explains winter tires are ultimately the wiser choice in areas that experience extremely cold temperatures as they are specifically designed for better traction and to resist hardening.
Moreover, know that changes in temperature usually translate to changes in tire pressure, so it’s important to make checking tire pressure a habit.
Practice smart and safe driving.
As mentioned, much of safe winter driving requires common sense. In fact, it all boils down to defensive driving maneuvers that you already know and likely practice in all kinds of weather and conditions. The only difference is that, when driving in winter, such maneuvers need to be performed with more care—and must be adhered to religiously.
As a rule of thumb, it’s crucial to avoid making abrupt stops or turns when driving on ice and snow as this might cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Instead, make sure to brake slowly and ideally come to a full stop before making turns. It goes without saying that driving at a slow speed is also a must, as well as putting more than the usual amount of distance between yourself and the car in front of you.
Stay alert and in control.
No doubt, slipping and sliding on an icy road is the most concerning aspect of winter driving. While this is definitely a cause for panic, don’t! Instead, get to know the ways in which you can correct a slide. Icy Road Safety explains these techniques will go against your instincts to hit the brakes or steer against the skid, so stay alert, keep calm, and respond accordingly.
Another, lesser-known winter driving tip is avoiding cruise control. While this particular feature undoubtedly has its virtues in normal conditions, this can be dangerous when there is snow or ice on the road. Winter driving needs your full attention, so avoid switching on that little button, even for a short stretch.
Always be prepared.
Lastly, preparation is the key when you drive in winter. It’s best to always have an emergency kit in your vehicle, which will be your lifeline if you ever get stranded in inclement weather. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to have a checklist of the items that you should stock your emergency kit with, as well as some of your vehicle prep concerns.
Your emergency kit should also include items that will keep you warm until help arrives, such as a blanket and hand warmers for in the car, and a pair of gaiters to protect your lower extremities from the brutal cold if you have to venture outside. Equally important is investing in good-quality gear so you can get the full benefit of their respective functions. Case in point, choosing the best gaiters will entail taking into account insulation, waterproofing, durability, and more.
Indeed, the idea of driving in winter in Colorado when you’re inexperienced is understandably unnerving. Ensure your safety with a little preparation and planning. By taking these tips to heart, you’ll find that you’re not only capable, but you’ll be a pro at it in no time.