August 2, 2010
Driving with snow and icy road conditions can be scary even for a seasoned adult, but can be especially worrisome when you are new to driving. As a teen who is first learning to drive, it is important to learn some winter driving tips to help keep you safe. Even when the roads are dry, the cold weather can bring about car troubles, and you'll need to know what to do to prepare yourself. Learned early, these are habits you'll carry with you for a lifetime.
Prepare for winter – there are many things you can do to prepare for winter driving conditions.
• Use winter tires – when it comes to traction, winter tires can be up to 50% better than all-season tires. Putting winter tires on your vehicle will help your car stop faster and hold the road better.
• Test your battery – batteries can lose power in cold weather, and being stranded somewhere during a blizzard or freezing temperatures can be dangerous. Have your battery tested to make sure it's in good condition and will last you throughout the winter.
• Use winter wiper blades – wiper blades made specifically for snowy weather will help you keep your visibility during a snowstorm. It's a good idea to change your wiper blades when you put on your winter tires.
• Keep supplies with you – there may come a time when you are stranded, and it's a good idea to be prepared. In your car you should keep the following items: winter boots, gloves, hat, food, water, cell phone charger, a blanket or sleeping bag, shovel, flashlight (with extra batteries), tow strap, and jumper cables.
Safe driving techniques – once you're on the road, there are certain things to keep in mind that will help keep you safe.
• Anticipate trouble – even one additional second of reaction time can help prevent an accident. Keeping your eye far ahead on the road can help you see any trouble that might come up. If you see the brake lights come on of cars up ahead, it's a good idea to slow down.
• Maintain adequate spacing – allow for plenty of space between you and the cars up ahead. It can take 4 to 10 times the distance to stop on icy roads, so make sure you have adequate space.
• Be alert at intersections and hills – intersections and hills can be especially slippery. Look for spots with more grip, such as snow or a dry patch, and brake or accelerate when you are on that spot. It also helps to put on the brake before you hit a slippery area, and then ease up and adjust the brake as necessary. Other slippery areas to look out for are bridges, and areas that don't get much sun.
• Use traction efficiently - brake only in a straight line prior to entering a curve when the car is traveling straight. Taking your foot off the brake before steering into the curve allows you to use all of the traction available just for steering. Accelerate only when you can straighten the steering wheel at the exit of the turn.
Other things to keep in mind:
• Know your breaks – whether or not you have ABS breaks can make a difference when having to slow down or stop in icy conditions. Knowing what type of breaks you have, and how long it takes you to slow down or stop in normal driving conditions, will help you when road conditions are less than favorable.
• Turn on your headlights – when your wipers are on, your lights should also be on. This will help visibility during snow, and will help other cars see you. Fog lights can also be helpful in stormy conditions. However, keep in mind to only have your fog lights on when out of city traffic, as they can distract other drivers.
And just like with anything else in life, when driving in the winter, use common sense. If roads are especially slippery or you feel unsafe, lower your speed. And if you feel something might be wrong with your vehicle, make sure to visit your Cleveland Ford dealer for servicing, to prevent a breakdown on the highway. Safe winter driving is an important life lesson, and following the guidelines above will help you be prepared.
AUTHOR BIO Rob Gillingham is the President and owner of Bob Gillingham Ford, located in Parma, Ohio, which sells a variety of new Ford cars and trucks, preowned and Ford classic vehicles.