Winter time is approaching and many of us are planning road trips to visit our loved ones and spend an incredible holiday season. Driving during winter can be a scary experience especially if you are a first timer; so before you head to your lovely destination there are a few things to take into account when planning your trip. From the most obvious aspects such as taking warm clothing to more serious things like checking your vehicle for proper conditions, good planning will prevent you from having a bad winter vacation experience and ensure a safe road trip.
There a few basic precautions to follow, common to all road trips regardless of the season. When traveling by car, make sure to take a well appointed first aid kit, extra non-perishable ready-to-eat food, an in-vehicle cell phone charger, (and cell phone, of course) and a portable radio with AM band and batteries even if your vehicle has one. Remember also to bring a spare vehicle key to carry with you at all times. These items will allow you to properly react on an emergency situation.
Driving during winter presents extra challenges to the driver. Cold weather tests your abilities and your car’s mechanical abilities as well. If you are the designated driver, try to stay alert at all times, slow down and stay in control. Drive according to the highway and weather conditions and keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you; you will be able to avoid such situations in which you have to push the brakes suddenly on a slippery road.
Use extreme caution when driving downhill and remember that you cannot drive at highway/ freeway speeds with chains on. If your vehicle has ABS anti-locking brakes, do not pump the brake pedal if you start to skid. If you are already in a skid, steer in the direction of the skid by looking where you want your vehicle to go and steer towards that spot. This technique will allow you to regain control of your vehicle.
Sometimes mountain passes are closed. Never try to get around them by using local roads. If the pass is closed, most likely it is for a good reason. Trying to save a day or two is not worth risking your life and the life of those traveling with you.
What to Bring
There are some winter-specific items to bring along with you that will make your life easier in case of an emergency. Bring blankets in case you may need to sleep in your car after a snow storm, a lightweight snow shovel and an ice scraper with a brush. As far as clothing goes, warm garments including ski caps, globes and rubber boots that fit over shoes are always recommended. And last but not least, do not forget your tire chains or cables.
Check your Vehicle
Before leaving for your vacation, always check your vehicle. Make sure brakes are in good condition and check the tire air pressure. Remember to take a spare tire and a jack. Always bring tire chains and have your battery replaced if it is near or over the pro-rated warranty period as it may not work in cold weather. Replace the wiper blades if they are worn, and check anti-freeze (coolant) levels. Finally make sure the heater and defroster are working properly.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation there are also some guidelines to follow. Always stay inside your car as it provides shelter and protection. Run the car engine 5 to 10 minutes every hour with the heater on to the max. In case you need to leave the car to search for help, do so only during morning hours after sunrise.
You can check more information regarding winter driving at the National Safety Council. We hope you have a safe winter road trip and have an unforgettable experience this holiday season.