According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period is the second-busiest time for long-distance travel. (The six-day travel period during Thanksgiving takes first place.) In the week ahead, BTS predicts long-distance road trips (50 miles or more, one way) to jump by 23%. And most of this holiday travel—an estimated 91%—will take place in personal vehicles, on the road.
To keep yourself and your family safe during this busy time—and during the cold months ahead—we’ve collected these winter driving tips.
Before you leave . . .
- Take care of your car. No one wants to get stranded in a car, especially during the cold winter months. Keep your vehicle in peak condition with routine maintenance. Have a professional mechanic check for leaks, worn hoses or tires, and other issues.
- Stock your vehicle. Don’t get caught unaware in a storm. Put supplies in the car to prepare for common winter tasks, like a broom and scraper for removing snow and ice. Pack blankets to stay warm. Jumper cables and flashlights, as well as a cell phone and charger, are useful year-round.
- Watch the weather. Before you set out for a long-distance trip, or travel in an isolated area, check the weather forecast. If a bad storm is coming, delay the trip if possible. But if you have to head out, let others know where you’re going and when you should arrive.
- Practice winter driving. During the day, practice driving the car on ice or snow in an empty parking lot.
On the road
The following tips will come in handy when driving during winter weather conditions.
- Take it slowly. If the roads are slick or covered with snow, drive slowly—even if you have all-wheel drive. Stopping takes longer, so increase your following distance to provide a greater safety margin.
- Know your brakes. Does your car have an antilock brake system? These systems stop the wheels from locking up. If you do have antilock brakes, apply firm, steady pressure. Otherwise, you may need to pump your brakes gently. (The above-mentioned parking-lot practice session will help you determine how your car will respond.)
- Try not to stop. It’s much easier to keep moving than it is to start a stopped vehicle. If possible, slow down the car so that you can roll through a traffic light once it changes, instead of coming to a complete stop.
- Seize control. Avoid using cruise control when the roads are slippery. Take matters into your own hands.
We hope you find these winter driving safety tips helpful. Please share any additional advice in the comments below.