Stay Safe On the Road With These Winter Driving Tips

By Kaylee Rathkoy

During the winter months, drivers have to face driving in unordinary weather conditions. Snow, slush or ice on roads are involved in nearly one in four weather-related vehicle accidents. Winter conditions impact many factors, as it makes it harder to see, slow down and stop. In Santa Rosa, there is no snow or slush, but as it gets very cold, black ice can start to form on the roads.

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Black ice is almost invisible, can form almost anywhere on the road, and can send a car into oncoming traffic. It is a glaze that forms on surfaces below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be caused by a light freezing rain and melting and refreezing snow, water or ice on surfaces. Black ice is dangerous because it’s hard to detect in advance. It forms most often at night or in the early morning, due to the lack of the sun warming the roads. When coming in contact with black ice, lift off of the accelerator, but don’t hit the brakes. Braking locks the wheels and will cause the car to drift farther. One should make small corrections, but not oversteer, which will just cause the slide to worsen or cause the car to spin out. The best way you can avoid losing control is by driving extra careful on icy roads.

During winter break, many students travel to places that  contain snow during the vacation. When going on a long distance trip where you will be driving through the snow it’s important to check weather reports, so as to not get caught in a storm, and become snowbound. When driving in winter conditions, everything takes much longer than when driving on dry pavement. Giving yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly will help to prevent the car from losing traction. When driving up snowy or icy hills, applying a lot of gas will cause the wheels to spin. Getting a little inertia going before reaching the incline will help move the car over the hill.

It is important to ready the car before driving long distance, but making sure the driver is properly equipped to drive is just as important, especially in potentially dangerous conditions. Concentration for safe driving takes much more energy than people may realize, and drivers should be aware of how important it is to be focused when driving. In bad winter conditions, stress can increase greatly and lead to crashes. Having a good mindset before driving and getting plenty of rest before the start of the trip will help the brain stay aware of its surroundings. Also, taking breaks every 2 hours or so while driving to move around and stretch the muscles increases circulation, which helps the driver to be alert. In winter conditions, make sure to slow down and be very aware of your surroundings and the road conditions. Take every bit of time necessary to stay safe.



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