Wintertime brings snow, sleet, hail, and ice to many regions in the Northern Hemisphere. If you still want (or need) to get behind the wheel and take a road trip to visit family, friends, or just get away for a few days, you’ll want to take some extra precautions before your trip.
Before you leave home, you’ll want to be prepared for anything. A storm could blow in while you’re on the road and prevent you from taking the route you planned or leave you stranded on the road far from help.
Here are a few tips from the experts to make sure your winter road trip is fun and – more importantly – safe.
- Buy quality tires. The rubber between the road and yourself can be more important than the type of vehicle you drive. All-weather or studded tires are best for winter driving conditions. If you can’t afford to buy keep two sets of tires and switch them out according to the seasons, try to buy new tires of the highest quality you can afford before starting on a road trip in inclement weather.
- Go slow. Keep extra distance between you and other motorists. Snowy or icy roads are slick, which makes it harder to stop. Drive slower than usual to allow plenty of reaction time if a vehicle ahead of you suddenly stops or slides.
- Don’t step on the brakes. If your vehicle starts to slide on an icy road, don’t step on the brakes. That will only lock up the brakes and keep the slide going. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator pedal and try to steer out of the skid. Make sure you don’t overcorrect; try to get your vehicle straight with the roadway.
- Give snow plows plenty of room. Stay well behind snow plows and don’t be in a rush to pass them. The road directly behind the plow is the free of snow and ideal for driving, so just put on your patience pants, hang back, and make it to your destination with a clear road and smooth sailing.
- Carry water bottles and nonperishable snacks. You never know when vehicular troubles, bad road conditions, or a blocked roadway due to a wreck will leave you stuck on the road for a while. Granola bars are a compact, efficient way to carry enough calories to tide you over until the road is cleared or help arrives. Extra water bottles are always a good idea to ward off the threat of dehydration, which is a concern even in cold weather.
- Throw in jackets and a blanket. Make sure you bring one warm winter coat for everyone in the car, plus a blanket or two if there’s room. Staying warm can be a concern, especially since you don’t want to run your car continually and burn up the gas if you’re not moving.
Always fill up your gas tank. Just like your dad said when first got your driver’s license: “There is no excuse for running out of gas.” If you’re on a road trip and the weather looks sketchy, fill up the top half before you leave town. If you always keep the tank full, you should have plenty to see you through whatever obstacles or detours lie ahead on your trip.