Even if you are a veteran New England driver, keeping these safety tips fresh in your mind can keep you on the road and in control.
1. Make sure you and your car are properly equipped before you leave.
Do a quick check of your vehicle before you hit the road. Make sure that your car has ample antifreeze, the windshield is clean and you have plenty of windshield washer fluid, the headlights are clean and in working order and the tires have tread and are properly inflated. Also, make sure to have your battery tested, to avoid being stranded in the cold with a car that won’t start.
2. Slow down and drive smoothly.
Driving too quickly is the main cause of accidents in winter conditions. Just be patient and accept the fact that it is going to take longer to arrive at your destination. Four-wheel-drive may help your vehicle get going in the slushy stuff, but it’s of no use when you’re trying to steer or safely stop on a slippery road surface. It’s important to avoid sudden acceleration, braking and turns.
3. Never tailgate.
Tailgating often leads to accidents, especially if you are driving in stop-and-go traffic. If the car in front of you stops abruptly and you are following too closely, you can reflexively slam on the brakes and end up sliding into it. The resulting accident may be no more than a fender-bender, but having to deal with it on a busy road in the snow is certainly something that you want to avoid, especially if other cars are sliding around as well. Many serious accident injuries come from a second impact from another car after a seemingly trivial collision.
4. Do not use cruise control.
For some, driving with cruise control has become almost second nature. Sure, it prevents you from getting leg fatigue, keeps you from unwittingly speeding and is great on long trips, but driving with it on in winter conditions can be unsafe.
Using cruise control in the snow, ice or even rain is dangerous because if your car hydroplanes or skids, it will accelerate and rapidly spin the wheels since it will be trying to maintain a constant speed. If this happens, it will be more likely that you lose control of your vehicle.
5. Only drive if you need to.
If at any point before you even leave you feel that the weather is too bad to drive, simply stay put. If you’re already out on the road, find a safe spot to pull over and wait until the weather passes or calms to the point where you feel comfortable driving again.