Floridians don’t have the best reputation for driving to begin with – but wait until you put us in sleet, ice, and snow. For our friends and neighbors traveling north through the next few months, we’ve compiled some practical winter driving tips.
Common Sense and Road Etiquette:
– Stay out of the fast lane unless you are actively trying to pass. Twenty drivers thinking that they are going fast-ish and are entitled to just sit in the fast lane causes the crazies to drive even crazier, darting between lanes and causing accidents. (This goes for all seasons, but especially when the weather is awful.)
– Don’t be a crazy. Hollywood isn’t filming your rad maneuvers, and getting there two minutes earlier isn’t worth the risk of causing someone a lifetime of pain and disability. Including you.
– Along those lines, if you are trying to pass a vehicle, do not sit on their bumper to intimidate them into moving over. If they need to break for an errant deer or tire bits in the road, it will be disaster for both of you. If you’ve got a true emergency and really need to get to a hospital, use your horn to gently encourage them to move over.
– Get your sleep and pass on that last beer or glass of wine before you leave a gathering. In all of the following weather conditions, a slightly dull reflex could be the difference between having an accident and avoiding one.
– DO use your headlights. Put those things on.
– DON’T use your emergency flashers. You are not having an emergency, you are experiencing precipitation falling on your vehicle. Like everyone else. Plus, it causes an awful “now you see me, now you don’t” phenomenon for everyone behind you, which is the opposite of what you want – you want them to see you 100% of the time. Use your flashers only if you are experiencing an emergency of if you are parked on the side of the road, experiencing an emergency.
-If it’s coming down in sheets and you’re white-knuckled while the cars around you seem to be zooming by, there is nothing wrong with taking an exit and finding a gas station to take a breather.
– But please, think twice before pulling off into the shoulder to idle; in bad visibility, a tired driver may mistake your parked car on the shoulder for another lane of traffic. You don’t want to risk being rear-ended.
Frozen Temps and/or Icy Conditions:
– Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid line freezes.
– Never warm your car up in side the garage – you could become severely ill or die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
– If the surface is slippery (like rain, sleet, or snow) don’t use your cruise control.
– Remember to exaggerate the time needed to slow down for stopping and also exaggerate the space between your car and the one in front of you on the highway. It takes longer to stop when roads are icy or slippery. So, if the usual rule is 4-5 car lengths, you’ll want double that.
If you don’t know how to drive in snow, stay home. (Joking. But only partly – if you don’t need to be out there, don’t be out there.)
– Imagine Grandma is in the back seat with you in her Sunday best AND she’s holding a pan of turkey with gravy so full it is nearly spilling over the sides. You really don’t want Grandma to ruin her best pantsuit. Drive like that, and your snow driving will be perfect as you accelerate and deaccelerate to prevent her from wearing gravy to the party.
– Winston Churchill said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” This also applies to hills. If you stop in the snow it will be very difficult to get going upward again. Better to keep your momentum going.
– If you are stuck, apply steadily increasing gas rather than stomping on the pedal. If you stomp on the pedal, you may dig yourself a deeper hole and spin wheels, or lurch out going a lot faster than what is safe or controllable.
Being stranded in inclement weather can be very dangerous.
– Keep blankets, nutrition and medication in your car, plus plenty of water. Never try to walk away from your vehicle in a severe storm – it’s more difficult for help to find you. This kit found on Amazon has the essentials including a ‘Help’ flag, jumper cables, first aid kit, and safety vest. You can make the same kind of kit from what you probably already have around the house, too.
– Keep emergency contact numbers and roadside assistance numbers written down somewhere in case your cell phone loses power – that way someone else can help you call your contacts.
– Here’s a plug for my new app we had developed – if you download our automatic car accident detection app, the little accelerometer sensors in your phone will automatically notify the contacts you pre-programmed with your exact coordinates so that they can call for help if you’re unresponsive, or if it is a smaller accident, will help you find nearby emergency services. Download our app for iPhone here and our app for Android here.
– If you’ve been stopped for a while, and are occasionally running the vehicle for heat, check that snow hasn’t clogged the exhaust pipe – it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Prepare for the worst. As weather conditions increase in severity, increase the space around your vehicle. Drive like Grandma is with you. And imagine that everyone else on the road is a human squirrel; practice ‘defensive driving.’