10 Tips for Driving in Snow,


Snow has come to Chicago, and clearly seems to be behaving badly and over-staying its welcome. Driving in snow poses a variety of hazards, from slower stopping times, impaired vision, and cars slipping and sliding their way across the roads. Newer cars with traction control and antilock brakes plus the large number of vehicles with 4-wheel-drive, do help, but they can also fool drivers into a false sense of security. I have seen people, because they are getting traction, drive as if they are on dry pavement, only to then suddenly they loose control.  As an insurance agent at Urban Insurance, after each snow-storm I am greeted by a flood of weather related accidents, as a driver, I understand just how dangerous driving conditions can get. So here are 10 tips for driving in snow to help you avoid claims and keep you safe.

Driving in Snow

Clear off your windows.  This should sound obvious but I routinely see drivers climb in their cars, and expect the windshield wipers to remove the 6 inches of snow piled on their auto blocking their view. Go out any snow-covered morning, and you will see cars going down the street with just a peep-hole of vision in the center of the windshield. At a time when the streets are slippery, lanes can be blocked or reduced in width, it’s more important than ever to have a clear view of all around you. Also check, and if necessary,  replace your windshield wiper blades and take the time to fill washer-fluid.

Know where your going: Here again it is important to remember that visibility will be reduced for you and those around you, and stopping times can be far longer; so suddenly realizing you need to turn left at the coming street can result in you making quick lane changes, These kinds of moves can be unexpected by drivers around you and lead to accidents in good driving-conditions, but are particularly dangerous on slick, snowy roads. Also plan to avoid side-streets or roads you suspect my not be properly plowed.

Check your Tires.  Look, even tread-bare tires can probably get you around on a dry summer afternoon, but those same tires will leave you spinning across the road when they are covered in ice and snow. Check that your tires To have at least 6/32-inch deep tread. Today most cars have E “all-season” tires which are going to work in average snow depths,  If you live in an area where the roads are commonly  covered with snow, especially if they are also hilly, then it pays to invest in a set of  snow tires

Make sure your lights are working. Most of think of headlights as just being a way for you to see after dark, but they also play a critical role in other divers and pedestrians being able to see you.  It is extra important that at times of limited visibility, that all of your lights work and none are covered by snow.

Watch carefully for “black ice.”  OK, I know “Black-Ice” sound like some new fragrance by Calvin Klein, but it refers to a thin layer of ice that can be covering the road yet giving the illusion that the road is simply wet. This can be particularly dangerous because people seldom slow down because they underestimate the slipperiness of the road. SLOW DOWN and test your ability to stop.

Run the air-conditioner.  When the radio is telling you that the wind chills are below zero, the idea of turning on the air conditioning my sound like advice from a mad-man, but the idea is to keep your windows clear by removing condensation and frost. Please remember, I’m not suggesting you set the temperature at 64, no it’s fine to set the temp to hot or high. If you have a car that has a defrost setting, that will often do the trick.

Watch out for bridges:  The fact is, bridges and other elevate roads wil often freeze before their lower-level counterparts. This is a product of temperatures dropping 5.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation, as well as the ability of wind to chill the road from both above and below.

Your Brakes are your friends: There is never a good time to be driving a car with bad brakes. We’ve all seen movies where the bad guy tampers with someone brakes, because being able to stop, is essential to survival. TEST YOUR BRAKES.  If you go through a deep puddle, confirm them are still working, additionally, the act of pressing lightly and testing will help dry the pads.  Understand the braking system in your car. The old advice was to “Pump-the-brakes”  to keep them from locking up, but with new ABS (Anti Lock Brakes) Stomp, stay and steer. Stomp and apply a firm pressure on the pedal. Stay riding the pedal, you should hear the system sending force to the proper wheels, Steer clear of danger.

A Little steering goes a long way. The last thing you want while driving is a car that is out of your control. On slick conditions, the easiest way to loose control is to make sharp sudden turns, and worse yet can be to over compensate for those mistakes. Take it easy, if a little turn is not enough, turn a bit more, but avoid turns that can cause your front tires to lose their grip on the road. I warned about “Over-Correcting”, this can be extra deadly in an SUV, or any Vehicle was a higher center of gravity leading to roll-over accidents. Easy does it, if you find your car skidding, the best idea is to smoothly stop doing whatever it was that caused the problem. The idea is to maintain control over your auto.

Learn from the cars around you: File this tip under common sense, if you see cars slipping all over the road, that’s a real good clue that the roads are slick. Just because your car might be getting decent traction and behaving well does not mean that you can’t find your self sliding a moment latter. But also, it stands a a warning that other cars and trucks might be crossing into your lane as they skid and slide. Also when stopping at a light, leave not only enough space between you and the cars in front for you to come to a safe stop, but leave a bit extra in case your rear-view mirror reveals that the guy behind you is coming at you a bit too fast, your ability to move up a  few fee can give him the space he needs to avoid rear-ending you. While we might be tempted to curl-up, grab a bag of chips and wait for winter to end, that is not an option; so while your out on the roads use these tips to get home safely. : Larry Lubell

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