Winter has definitely arrived in Michigan and the snow will be a regular part of the forecast for the coming weeks. Parents need to ensure that their inexperienced, teen drivers are truly ready for winter driving. Just because a teen has successfully obtained a license doesn’t mean that they are ready for all driving conditions.
Benny Malburg, the owner of Official Driving School , (with a location in Ann Arbor), shared some important information to minimize risk while driving in winter conditions. Parents should definitely review these tips with their teen drivers — and note that these are also good reminders for more experienced drivers as well!
PREPARE FROM THE COMFORT OF HOME
Check the Weather. Have an idea of what to expect before even leaving your home. If the weather forecast calls for a lot of precipitation and freezing temperatures, you can predict what the driving conditions will be in advance.
Avoid Unnecessary Travel. Stay home unless it is crucial to be on the roads. Driving in slippery and low visibility conditions is dangerous. The fewer people on the roads, the better. The best thing you can do is stay in and wait until there are better weather conditions to hit the road.
IF YOU DO GO OUT….
Dress for Winter Travel. You never know when your vehicle will break down or you’ll be involved in a collision. If you are stranded or need to go for help you will want to have warm clothes. Wear coats and jackets, hats and gloves. Winter clothing can be bulky and a distraction for some drivers, you can store winter clothing safely in the backseat until you are in need.
Do You Have the Right Tools? Make sure that you have an ice scraper and snow brush in your vehicle. Other items to have in your vehicle’s emergency kit include a foldable shovel, a blanket, kitty litter or sand, a flashlight, road flares, a spare tire, and jumper cables.
Check Your Tires. Our tires keep our grip on the ground and will help us maintain traction on snowy and/or icy roads. When the temperature drops so does your tire pressure. Make sure to check your tires each time you drive. Check the tire pressure, the tread depth, and for any visible signs of puncture or other damage.
Check Your Battery. It takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather. For electric vehicles, you won’t get as many miles when the battery is cold, and battery systems work better after they warm up.
Beware of Carbon Monoxide. A snow stuffed tail pipe can cause exhaust to leak into your vehicle causing carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, keep in mind that heating up in a closed garage can be another dangerous way to be exposed to carbon monoxide as well.
Fill Up Your Tank. The more fuel you have in your tank, the better. If you have too little in the tank your lines can freeze, causing you to be stranded. Gas itself doesn’t freeze, but condensation can build up in your tank and fuel lines causing your car to stall and possibly not start at all.
TAKE A PRACTICE RUN
Use a Newer Vehicle if Possible. The technology in older cars is outdated and newer cars perform better in the snow.
Preparation Before You Hit the Road. Clean the entire vehicle of snow and ice. Start at the top of your vehicle brushing off the entire top, then move on to the windows, hood, lights and license plate. Not only does removing snow and ice make it easier for you to see, it makes it easier for others to see you. Clearing the top of your vehicle will prevent you from being the cause of problems for other drivers who may be hit with debris from your vehicle.
Practice Snow Driving. Do you know if you have antilock brakes or not? Make sure to check your vehicle owner’s manual for details for your specific vehicle. If you get a chance, it’s not a bad idea to test your brakes and how they react in different conditions, find an empty open area free of other vehicles, drive a little and then brake hard to reacquaint yourself with the way your vehicle stops on a slick surface. Practice stopping, starting and turning to get the feel of your wheels in the snow.
Remember What You Learned in Driver’s Education. In slippery conditions make smooth gradual maneuvers. You’ll need more following distance and stopping distance to handle the icy roads. The more time and space you give yourself the better off you’ll be. That means leaving more space between you and the car in front of you and slowing down so that you’re able to stop if anything does happen.
Follow the Leader. You can get a little bit better traction by driving in the tire tracks of the vehicle ahead. The snow is already matted down. Leave plenty of following distance between you and that vehicle though.
Expect Black Ice. You can’t always see it, but it is out there, a slippery patch. If you do start to skid, don’t slam on the breaks. Ease off the gas and steer in the direction that you want to go. Remember not to use cruise control when you have limited traction.
Caitlin M. Giles is a co-founder of 2 Moms Media, LLC.