Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Winter Driving Tips

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

While we haven’t seen any dramatic winter storms yet this season, with Montana weather being as unpredictable as it is, it is always a good idea to be prepared for fall and winter traveling.  Listen today to the following tips about winter traveling, especially with the holidays rapidly approaching.
Before you travel, if you must drive in snowy or icy conditions, let family or friends know that you are traveling and what your intended route and destination time is.  While most people carry cell phones these days, have your cell phone in case of emergency.  Be sure to charge it before you leave as well.  Keep your gas tank filled so that your car can start your travels by being prepared.  This also ensures that you have extra fuel that can be used in to heat the car longer if you must stop driving.  Likewise, be sure that your tires have the appropriate level of pressure and tread capability before you set out.

Photo courtesy of Healthy Gallatin
Once you are on the road, it is important to keep the following tips in mind:  When trying to go up a snowy or slippery hill, do so in the highest gear possible.  This reduces the possibility of your tires spinning.  Do not slam on the gas or gun the motor.  When navigating down a hill, stay in a low gear.  This decreases your overall speed and the necessity to use the brakes, which reduces the amount of abrupt sliding caused by braking.  Keep in mind that if the gear is too low it increases the drag and may cause wheels to lock.
Most newer cars feature anti-lock brakes, which automatically “pump the brakes” to stop wheels from locking up.  If your car does not have this feature and you find yourself not in control of your car, “pump” the brakes instead of slamming them with force.  Be cautious of drivers around you.  All drivers react differently to snow and ice on the road.  Keep extra distance between your car and others.  Be aware that other drivers may be nervous, make rash decisions or drive with too much confidence in dangerous conditions.  We’ve all had those people that roar past us on the freeways or two-lane highways, going considerably faster than what is safe for the conditions.  With that thought, always be on the lookout for possible accidents ahead.

Don’t use cruise control in snowy and icy conditions.  You are unable to control acceleration and deceleration as quickly and effectively when using cruise control, which are vital when driving in wintery conditions.  Lastly, think of the safety of others and yourself.  If you find that you are unable to control your car in the conditions, it is much smarter (and safer) to slide into a snow drift, rather than a busy intersection. 
If you would like to read up on more winter driving tips, many Extension sources around the nation feature advice for keeping you and your family safe.

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