If you live in New England, you need to be ready for winter driving.
But what’s the best way to do that?
Prepare your car and protect yourself, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Make sure your car is well maintained,” says Andrea McGrath, CEO at Bates Insurance Agency. “That means having good windshield wipers, no-freeze fluid in your washer reservoir, a rear defroster in working condition and snow tires if you’re going to be driving regularly in the winter.”
You also should make sure you have a snow brush and ice scraper, jumper cables, a flashlight, a cell phone, gloves, hats and blankets. If you’re taking a longer trip, even pack some extra food and water.
A good rule-of-thumb for winter is to also keep your gas tank at least half full at all times.
And, should you find yourself stuck or stranded, stay in your car. Don’t overexert yourself. Run your car only as much as you need to stay warm. And even then make sure your exhaust pipe is clear.
“Winter driving is all about being prepared,” McGrath says. “Always give yourself extra time.” Keep an eye on weather forecasts, plan routes ahead and let someone know when you are leaving and when you expect to arrive somewhere.
Like anything else, practicing maneuvering your vehicle in adverse conditions is a good idea before actually having to travel on icy or snow-covered roads.
Rehearse some maneuvers slowly on ice or snow in an empty parking lot during daylight hours. See what it’s like to steer into a skid. Find out what your brakes will do. If you have antilock brakes, stomp on them. Pump brakes that aren’t antilock.
“It’s a good idea to see what it’s like to drive in the snow before actually having to head out on the roads,” McGrath says. “Being cautious is your best defense.”
Probably the best advice is simple, if you don’t have to go out, stay in.
“Stay home if you don’t really have to be somewhere,” McGrath says. “Even if you have good driving skills in the snow, not everyone does.”