How To Travel Safely in Winter Weather

Dear Rich Lifer,

The Northeast got its fair share of winter weather this past week, and residents are now busy digging their way out of some major snowfall.

Areas in Pennsylvania and New York saw up to two feet of snowfall, and other parts of New England are expected to receive another 6 to 12 inches!

With winter weather on the brain, today we wanted to talk about how to drive safely this winter season.

Due to coronavirus, the importance of safe driving is even more crucial as many people who plan to travel over the holiday will likely be driving instead of flying.

In fact, according to a survey by Travelocity, nearly 80% of respondents traveling over the holidays are planning to drive.

Of course, the safest thing this holiday season is to stay home and not travel per CDC guidelines; however, hopefully the vaccine will begin to ease restrictions and if so, we will still have a few months of winter weather to contend with.

Whether you are an experienced winter weather driver or a relatively new driver, planning to rent a car to escape a busy city, you’ll benefit from some tips from pros on how to safely maneuver winter roads.

9 Tips for Driving in Winter Weather Conditions

1. Don’t.

The best tip for driving in winter weather is to avoid it if at all possible. Unless you are driving for an essential reason the smartest thing you can do is stay off the road. There’s no reason to put yourself in danger if you can wait until conditions lightened to complete your travel plans.

2. Add Time.

If you must drive in winter weather, give yourself more time than you think you need to arrive at your destination. If you are rushing from place to place, you are putting yourself at a much higher risk of accident. You will likely need to drive at slower speeds to exercise caution on dangerous, icy roads. Which brings us to our next tip…

3. Slow Down.

Obviously, speeding is never smart, but speeding on winter roads isn’t just stupid, it’s deadly. Reducing your speed will give you more time to react to problems on the road such as a stalled car, someone unexpectedly breaking or another accident.

4. Maintain Space.

Keep a distance of at least three car lengths between yourself and other vehicles.

5. Keep Your Lights On.

Whether you are driving during the day or at night, keep your lights on, as winter weather can reduce visibility. Even if it’s not actively precipitating, turning on your headlights will serve as an additional safety precaution.

6. Use a Lower Gear.

If you operate your vehicle at a lower gear, your vehicle is less likely to accelerate quickly if it begins to slide on an icy road. Remember to never use cruise control in winter weather, if you do, you might not be able to detect the loss of traction till it’s too late.

7. Never Pass a Snow Plow.

If you find yourself driving behind a snow plow, do not try to pass it. Continue to drive slowly behind the snow plow giving yourself extra space — about five to 10 car lengths — between your vehicle and the plow. Driving behind the plow will help give you traction and remember, if you pass the snowplow, the road ahead of it won’t be plowed which will put you in an even more dangerous situation.

8. Don’t Overestimate.

One of the most dangerous things you can do is assume your vehicle can handle more than it’s equipped to. If you know you have a trip coming up and there’s a change of inclimate weather, get your car checked at an approved auto repair facility to be sure your vehicle is cleared for travel.

9. Defrost.

We’ve all gotten in the car in the morning after a particularly cold night and realized we couldn’t see out the front or back windows. This is why it’s important to physically scrape any ice or snow off the window and defrost the windows as well before beginning to drive.

What To Do if You Get Stuck in Snow

Even if you follow all these tips there’s always a chance of getting stuck in the snow if you are driving under winter weather conditions. If this happens there’s a few things you should do. For starters, stay with your vehicle and don’t wander off. Your vehicle provides a temporary shelter and will allow rescuers to locate you more easily.

If you have any type of brightly colored fabric, tie it to your antenna or hang it outside a rolled up window to make yourself more visible to others. If it is dark, keep your dome light on if possible.

You should also make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of any snow, ice, or dirt, as these materials can clog the pipe and allow deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter into the car.

Keep yourself warm by wrapping yourself in any materials you have in the car. If you are desperate, you could use things like the floor mats, or maps to insulate your body.

It’s smart to also keep a “winter survival pack” in your car with things like extra clothing, food, water, a flashlight, an ice scraper, and any other items or medications you deem essential.

Finally, make sure you are conserving fuel. Only run the engine long enough to remove the chill. The last thing you want is to get stuck without any gas in the tank and no way to add light or heat to your vehicle.

We hope these tips will keep you and your loved ones safe this winter wherever you may be traveling.

To a Richer Life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team

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