Safe Winter Driving Tips

Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early Spring, but it's still COLD out there!! Living in New England, you've probably come to know and appreciate the winter months of freezing cold temperatures and all of the fun things that accompany it. Not to worry, here are a few winter tips from weather.com that can assist in preventing unnecessary winter drama when it comes to your vehicle.

It's always a good idea to keep your car up to date on all scheduled maintenances. Make sure your oil is changed according to the manufacturer's recommendation; check you tire pressure, your fluid levels (especially your antifreeze and wiper fluid w/ de-icing agent) breaks, etc. If you keep a close eye on these updates, not only will you be safer during the winter months but your vehicle will run better for longer. This will save you valuable dollars in the future. In freezing temperatures, try not to allow your vehicle get to below half a tank of gas. It's never fun to have to stop at the station in 5 degree weather when you're running on fumes; but it's also possible for your gas lines to freeze if they are nearly empty for too long in too cold of weather. So gas up!

The best way avoid issues regarding icy wintery weather on the roads is to avoid driving whenever possible. If you have to go out, try to wait until all roads have been cleared by plows and salt and sand trucks have been able to do their jobs, making the roads a safer place for you.

Before trekking out into a winter wonderland, always clear your vehicle from all ice and snow. Driving with a partially cleaned vehicle is dangerous to you and to other vehicles around you on the road. You never know when a chunk of remaining ice from the roof of your vehicle can fly off while you are driving, so be mindful and respectful to vehicles that may be traveling behind you.

Buckle Up! This is not only a common sense winter tip, but a year round safety Law. Also, allow for extra travel time during wintery conditions, it's best to leave early and arrive safely.

The following list of winter driving Tips and Tricks can be found at www.weather.com. It's helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you're familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner's manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Driving safely on icy roads

1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.

2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.

3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.

5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

6. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

8. Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

9. Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your rear wheels skid...

1. Take your foot off the accelerator.

2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.

3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.

4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse - this is normal.

If your front wheels skid...

1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.

2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck...

1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.

2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.

3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.

4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.

5. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.

6. Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first - it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

If You Become Stranded...

1. Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation.

2. To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.

3. If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.

4. To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm.

5. Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.

6. Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist.

We hope that you stay safe and warm over the remaining winter months. We're here if you need us; just keep hoping for an early Spring!