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The Weather Outside Is Frightful: Tips for Safe Driving This Winter

Tips from the industry experts at Builders Mutual.

According to the US Department of Transportation, 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions that receive an average of more than five inches of snowfall annually. Twenty-four percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement, resulting in more than 1,300 deaths and 116,800 injuries every year.

Before winter weather takes full effect, let’s review winter driving best practices. In this post, we will cover preventive maintenance, tips for starting your drive, and reminders for driving in wintry conditions.

Preventative Maintenance

Stay ahead of potential winter driving disasters by doing a thorough check of your vehicle from tires to defrosters. We recommend starting with these five areas.

1. Tires

First, examine your tire pressure. To do this, make sure that the PSI (pounds per square inch) is correct for your vehicle. The chart can be found in the door jamb or the manual. Proper inflation will ensure good contact with the road surface during winter weather.

For the best contact, consider how your tire age, tread depth, and tread wear stack up. Winter tires are designed to stay soft in cold temps, 45 degrees Fahrenheit and below, for ultimate grip on snow. All-weather tires are designed to stay flexible in temps above and below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, which provides excellent grip on snow, slush, wet roads, and bare asphalt. Either of these are good options for driving in winter weather and are preferred over all-season or summer/performance tires.

2. Wipers

Each winter, examine your wiper blades and replace them if they are old or worn.

Keep your wiper blades ice-free by parking with the blades up or covering the blades. Before you get into the car, clean all ice and snow off your windows, including the back windshield. Allow wiper blades to run before beginning your drive.

3. Lights

Check that all lights and signals are working properly, including fog lights or aftermarket light kits.

4. Fluids

Low temperatures mean it’s time to switch out your car fluids. Schedule an oil change to switch to winter-grade oil. It is also important to check your engine coolant and antifreeze levels.

Additionally, not all washer fluids are the same. Be sure to change your washer fluid to a brand that won’t freeze on your windshield. Some brands can even help loosen the snow from your windshield.

5. Heating systems

Inspect your heating systems before the temperature drops. This includes vents, heated mirrors, and the rear defroster.

6. Before You Hit the Road

You’ll need to allow extra travel time for service visits this winter. Before leaving, check the weather conditions for the day, as well as road closures. Call your clients ahead of time to let them know your arrival time and confirm the road conditions

Inside the vehicle, check to be sure you should have:

  • An ice scraper
  • Salt, kitty litter, or sand
  • A shovel
  • Sunglasses
  • Blankets
  • Clear dashboard and floors
  • A fully charged cellphone

Before you drive off, clear the windshield, windows, and mirrors, as well as any excess snow on the vehicle. Ensure you have the proper tiedowns and that they are still in good condition.

Driving in Wintry Conditions

Winter driving takes patience and experience. It is not all ice and sliding on the roads. It is about being aware of the whole situation around you, requiring extra attention and focus. One of the best things you can do is drive defensively and watch out for the people who do not.

The repercussions of distracted driving are worsened by winter conditions. Program your GPS before you leave so you have one less thing to worry about. While driving, watch your following distance, speed, and brake time and distance. Keep an eye out for hidden dangers like black ice, sun glare off of the snow, trees and wires hanging over the road, and crosswinds when driving past open fields.

If you are in an accident:

  • Call 911 if anyone is injured
  • Put blinkers on or flares out for visibility
  • Be safe when exiting the vehicle and avoid traffic
  • Assess the situation and go to a safe spot and wait for the police
  • Follow your company’s vehicle policy for the situation

Winter weather means you have slick roads, low visibility, and inexperienced drivers on your hands. And you’re on the clock – in a hurry. Slow down, focus, and take your time, and you will make it home for the holidays. These tips will help you prepare for inclement weather’s impact on your workday.