It's been a rough winter for much of the U.S., and even in the South, the winter seems nowhere near its end. Freezing temperatures and unprecedented snow are blanketing areas that rarely experience such extremes. Educating yourself on the dangers of winter driving is essential in preventing accidents and injuries. Here are some common road conditions to beware of and tips for preparing your vehicle for extreme winter weather.
Beware of tricky road conditions
While some winter weather is readily visible, like freezing rain or hail, other dangers, like black ice, can be impossible to spot while driving.
- Black Ice - Black ice tends to look like the rest of the pavement, but it's actually clear. According to Maine's Bureau of General Services, black ice can form any time the temperature is below 40 degrees F. Drive slowly and maintain space between your car and others on the road to minimize your risk of an accident.
- Snow - If the snow is piling up or your city is not equipped with snow plows, stay on highly traveled roads to avoid getting stuck out in the cold. Especially if your city is not used to large amounts of snow, it could be useful to keep a shovel in your trunk as well.
- Freezing rain - Freezing rain and sleet occur when liquid raindrops sitting in a layer of warm air fall into a layer of freezing air hugging the ground, according to the National Weather Service. Bridges, overpasses, and elevated roadways are more likely to be icy as they're surrounded on all sides by cold air and thus freeze more quickly. Like you would if you suspected black ice, drive cautiously and slowly, leaving plenty of room between you and other vehicles on the road.
Winterize your car
Gearing up your vehicle for winter weather will help prevent the worst from happening, and prepare you if it does.
- Winter tires - Winter tires can improve your car's stability and your tire's grip on the road. If winter tires aren't something you expect to use very often, consider purchasing a pair of tire chains at your local auto store. Check state and local laws before installing your chains, and drive slowly to avoid damage to the tires of your car.
- Use antifreeze - Adding antifreeze to the radiator can help keep the engine block working properly during the winter, as it will reduce the chance of it freezing.
- Replace windshield wipers - During the winter, your windshield is bombarded with snow, ice, road sludge, and more. An old set of wiper blades could lead to reduced visibility and a foggy windshield. A new set of wiper blades costs less than an oil change, and is a worthwhile expense if you plan on tackling winter weather on the road.
- Create an emergency road kit - Keep a wool blanket, non-perishable snacks, a flashlight, an extra pair of gloves, socks, and boots, and some extra fluids in the trunk of your car in case of emergency. DMV.org also suggests that you include a handful of other useful items.
Explore other forms of transportation
Sometimes, the weather is just too poor for you to feel comfortable driving. This could be a time to explore other modes of transportation, especially when traveling long distances.
- Public transportation - If you're worried about parking at your destination or sliding off the road on the way, you may want to consider public transportation. Just be sure to dress warmly and familiarize yourself with the transportation schedule.
- Trains - If you need to go a little farther than work, a train or bus may be a good option to explore. Keep an eye on reports, as there is always the possibility of delays and cancellations.
- Stay home - When in doubt, avoid traveling altogether. This may be an inconvenience, but it will prevent you from putting yourself, or your car, at risk. Plus, it's an excuse to snuggle up under a blanket and watch your favorite movie!
Extreme winter weather conditions complicate everything. From getting to work, to heading to the grocery store, snow and ice make everything a little harder to do. Remember to drive slowly, explore alternative forms of transportation, and keep an eye on your local news report, and you could reduce your risk of an accident.