driving in the snow


Tips & Tricks For Driving in the Snow

While the snow looks beautiful coming down, it makes driving way more difficult and increases your chances of an accident significantly.  While it’s best to avoid driving in bad weather as much as possible, it’s often unavoidable- especially in New England. If you must hit the road during a snowy winter wonderland, keep these tips and tricks in mind to stay as safe as possible.

1. Drive Slow– This must be the most obvious thing to state when it comes to driving in the snow, but it has to be said. Really though, actually drive slower and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. The snow makes the roads slippery and reduces visibility so you’ll need to give yourself plenty of more time to react to changing conditions. This advice is heavily aimed at those who drive SUVs, 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive cars. While those type of cars do offer some more traction and control, it does not make you invincible or your car a super SUV. The roads are still significantly less safe and require slow driving.

2. Give Yourself Distance– Most people follow the 2 (or 3) second rule of thumb to calculate the minimum distance they should keep behind from the car in front so that there is adequate time to stop. In the snow, you want to at the very least double this distance. Ideally, triple it. If you do slide or skid on the snow, the farther away you are from other vehicles the safer you’ll be.

3. Lights– ALWAYS have your lights on when driving in the snow. With the reduced visibility, you’ll want to make your surroundings as visible as possible. On the side, you’ll want other drivers to be able to see you as well.

4. NEVER Use Cruise Control- You’ll need extra vigilance and extra control when it comes to driving in the snow. Not only do you need to adjust your speed more frequently when driving in the snow, you’ll also need much more control over steering, even if you’re driving on a straight road. Never use cruise control when driving in the snow. Ever.

5. Avoid Slamming on the Break– If your tires start to skid, most people’s first instinct is to panic and slam on the break- don’t do this. Instead ease off the accelerator and try to steer the car out of potential collisions. Slamming on the breaks once your tires have already locked up and lost traction won’t help. Skidding out can be frightening, but try to stay as calm as possible in order to safely slow down and come to a stop.

6. Beware of Bridges– Bridges are the first to freeze and ice over in cold weather and snow. Unlike roads which lose their temperature on their surface, bridges they are exposed the wind and cold from every angle which promotes the perfect environment for black ice. Even if the roads seem okay in mild snow, use extra caution when you get to a bridge.

7. Clean Your Car– Don’t slack off when it comes to cleaning your car. Even if you’re just driving a short distance, that snow of your roof is a hazard. It can fall in front and obstruct your vision, or it can fly off on to the car behind you which is seriously dangerous. Also, always keep cleaning essentials in your car all winter long such a scraper and shovel and make sure your car has enough windshield wiper fluid for the season.

8. Keep Kitty Litter!– This neat little trick can be a life safer! Getting stuck in the snow is the worst, and the more you try to accelerate out of it, the more you dig yourself deeper. Adding kitty litter behind your tire will provide the traction the tire needs for you to drive your way out. Sand or salt also works well. Keep a bag of it in your trunk of your car if possible.

9. Emergency Kit– While emergency kits are important all year round, they are extra crucial in the winter months. Click here to see what essentials you should have in yours this winter!

 

TIPS & TRICKS FOR DRIVING IN THE SNOW

Have to Drive in the Snow? Winter Driving Safety Tips

Snow Covered Car

After last weekend’s storm and the upcoming snow expected to arrive this Sunday, it is extremely important to keep in mind a few winter driving safety tips during this winter weather.  This time of year results in snow, ice, and sleet, all of which create hazardous road conditions for the most experienced of drivers. Drivers are highly recommended to stay indoors in such weather, however if you must venture out wait until plows and sand trucks have gone by.  If you find yourself in a situation where driving in the snow can’t be avoided, keep these simple defensive winter driving tips in mind to improve your safety on the road:

  • Allot extra time to get to your destination.  It is vital to decrease your speed while driving in the snow, and you should also leave about three times more space than usual between yourself and the car in front of you to give yourself plenty of time to stop.  Getting on the road 20 minutes earlier than you usually do should give you enough time to drive slowly and safely and also reach you destination on time.
  • If your car starts skidding, don’t panic!  Slamming on the breaks and turning the wheel to avoid a crash are actually more likely to result in an accident.  If you are sliding on ice and your tires suddenly regain their grip, the car will turn whichever way the tires are pointed, which can be detrimental if you have suddenly jerked the steering wheel in a certain direction. The appropriate reaction to this situation depends on which wheels are actually skidding out, front or back.  If your back tires are skidding out and you have begun to “fishtail”, take your foot off the gas, steer the car in the direction that the back tires are skidding in, and gently apply the break.  You may have to steer from right to left until you regain control of the vehicle.  If your front tires begin to skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, this will slow the car down as the wheels skid sideways, and you will slowly regain traction.
  • ALWAYS drive with your lights on in the snow, even if the sun is still out.  Visibility is much lower when it is snowing which is why it is so important to keep your lights on and make yourself known to other drivers.
  • Check your levels of windshield wiper fluid!  This fluid is helpful in improving visibility as it can be used to melt snow and ice on the windshield.  It definitely won’t replace a scraper, but it can be helpful if you find yourself driving in the midst of a storm or have a light layer of snow or ice on your car.
  • Use extra caution when driving over bridges as they are more likely to freeze first. Unlike roads, which only lose heat from their surface, bridges are more exposed to the wind and therefore lose heat on all sides, top and bottom.  This results in snow and rain freezing more rapidly, which often leads to black ice.
  • Do not use cruise control. In conditions that are more dangerous than usual it is important to have as much control over the car as you possibly can. Utilizing the cruise control ability of a car can delay your reaction time should your car begin to skid.
  • Do not attempt to pass by snow plows. These trucks typically have limited visibility and you’re better off sticking behind them and driving on a freshly plowed road, than passing them and struggling with roads that are full of snow.
  • Should your car get stuck in the snow, do not hit the gas!  This will only spin your wheels and dig you in deeper, instead turn the wheel from left to right in an attempt to loosen snow from around the tires.  Keep a bag of salt, sand, or even kitty litter in your trunk, these can all be sprinkled around tires that are stuck to gain traction.
  • Consider alternate forms of transportation.  On snowy days it may be more convenient and safer to rely on public transportation such as trains or buses.  If they are not in service due to the weather, take it as a hint that you shouldn’t be out driving either.
  • Make sure you have proper car insurance coverage for the risks on winter roads. If you are unsure what types of coverage you need, call a MassDrive agent to learn more.

At MassDrive we want all drivers out there to practice safe winter driving.  These simple tips can go a long way when it comes to ensuring that you will be as safe as possible on the roads this winter.

Get Your Car Ready For Winter!

Car Ready for Winter?

Winter weather is here! Is your car ready?  When the temperature drops it can have some seriously negative effects on your vehicle, which is why it is so important to winterize your car.  Basic maintenance and simple adjustments make a world of difference when it comes to prepping a car for winter and safe winter driving.  To make it easy for you, we’ve listed some of the most important steps to winterize your vehicle in the upcoming months:

  • Get your tires checked.  Cold weather causes tires to lose their air quicker than usual.  Checking the air pressure is crucial during the winter season, especially because roads are so slick and icy, you need your tires to be at top performance more than ever.  If it is an option financially, snow tires are a great option as they can reduce travel time while increasing safety of the vehicle.
  • Winter wiper blades are a cost effective preventative measure as they usually range from about $8-$10 each.  These blades have a thicker and wider rubber covering and are able to power through snow and ice more effectively than normal wiper blades.
  • Check windshield washer fluid levels!  Switching to a winter grade solvent windshield washer fluid during this time of year is helpful because it doesn’t freeze.   It is also especially important in the winter because it is able to assist in clearing away snow and ice on the windshield if you are in a rush and don’t have much time to scrape off ice.
  • Keep your gas tank as full as possible during the next few months.  This prevents the gas line from freezing.  Condensation typically builds up inside a gas tank but during the winter it is especially dangerous because it can freeze.  Should this happen, the water will sink to the bottom of the tank, freeze, and consequently make it impossible to drive.  If you are not able to pump a full tank’s worth of gas, adding a bottle’s worth of fuel de-icer to the tank can keep the line from freezing.
  • Salt is one of the most harmful elements to cars during the winter.  It is necessary for keeping the roads safer and less icy, but in turn salt gets into the undercarriage of a car, causing parts to rust and erode over time.  Getting your car washed (at least once a week) in the winter washes away the salt which can be detrimental to both the car and your wallet should it cause erosion.  Be sure to ask for an undercarriage rinse for best effects.
  • Despite the cold temperatures, an engine can still over heat in the winter.  The cold causes oil to thicken which makes it move more slowly between different parts of the engine, which results in it getting too hot.  A simple oil change, which is recommended about every 3,000 miles, is the best way to keep this from happening.
  • On the other hand, you don’t want your engine to freeze either, which is why antifreeze is essential to ensure that your vehicle survives the cold.  Putting the right amount is crucial to the engine’s performance as well.  Creating a mixture of about 50% antifreeze and 50% water is the ideal fluid to put into the engine.
  • Check the battery, belts, and hoses.  The engine has to work much harder in the cold which puts extra strain on the battery.  They typically last about 3-5 years but it is important to keep track so that you don’t end up stranded in the snow.  Belts and hoses are weakened by the cold which makes it easier for them to snap or break.  Have a mechanic take a look at these when you bring your car in for an oil change.
  • Should you ever find yourself stranded in the snow with a broken down car, one of the most important things to have is an emergency kit specifically for winter.  This should include blankets, boots, gloves, flares, a flashlight, ice scraper, spare tire, and energy bars.
  • Make sure your Mass auto insurance policy is squared away before hitting the road, just in case. Call your MassDrive agent today to learn more.

This season can result in extremely dangerous winter driving conditions which is why it is so important to be sure that your car is in the best shape possible!  These tips not only make driving safer in the present, but help to prevent potentially serious damage to your car in the future!

Photo by wanko

Winter Driving Safety Tips: Driving with Snow Plows

Driving with Snow Plows

Snow driving is one of the hallmarks of residing in Massachusetts. For some, driving in the snow is the next great adventure, for others, it’s a terrifying experience. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, there’s no denying that snow plows are a lifesaver during a storm. Helping remove snow and ensure safety, snow plows make it possible to get around during the winter months.

Plowing is done according to a hierarchy of importance – small public alleys, side streets and dead ends are the last to be plowed, so be sure to watch out if you live on any of these routes and plan accordingly during storms!

Winter Safety Driving Tips: Driving With Plows

Snow plows can be quite dangerous if you’re unsure how to drive with them. Follow these recommendations for driving with snow plows from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for safe winter driving:

  • Keep your distance, don’t assume plow drivers can see you. Their field of vision is limited – in addition to the blind spots of a traditional car, the snow that a snow plow stirs up may also limit the driver’s visibility. To be safe, stay 70 feet (4 car lengths) from the plow truck so the driver can see you.
  • Use extreme caution when passing a plow. There are no laws prohibiting drivers from passing a snow plow on the road, but it is extremely dangerous to do so. The wing plow blades of any given truck can extend 2 to 10 feet beyond the width of the truck, and are often hard to see because of the snow they push to the sides while plowing. Sometimes weighing as much as a compact car, you don’t want to hit one of these guys. If you must, snow plows push snow to the right, so avoid passing them on this side.
  • Turn on your lights. See and be seen by keeping your headlights on while driving in the snow.

Following these tips will help you drive safely and soundly around plows this winter, however, accidents do happen especially in winter conditions. If you do get in an accident, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation recommends that you assess the scene – is anyone hurt? Are you stranded? If so, or if if you feel you need to, call 911. If possible, move your vehicle off the road to clear the way for other drivers, and stay in your vehicle – it is safer than being outside during a storm. If it is dark, make sure to keep your light on with the engine running, but make sure to crack a window to keep fresh air circulating through your car – you never know if your exhaust pipe is blocked. If it’s light out, turn off your engine. Keep your circulation moving while you’re in the car by moving around and huddling for warmth, and if need be – make your car visible to rescuers. If you get in accident with another vehicle, make sure to exchange information, including your auto insurance information to settle any damage claims.

Driving in the snow can be dangerous, but sometimes it is necessary. When driving in a storm with plows, keep these tips in mind. Stay safe this winter!

Photo by bbearnes

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