Protect yourself—and your car—during winter driving
“The most common mistake drivers make when driving in slippery winter conditions is having an over-confidence in their driving ability or their vehicle’s ability to handle poor road conditions,” said Laurie Gannon, director of claims administration for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.
VFBMIC experiences an influx of auto claims whenever snowy or icy weather strikes. “If conditions are bad, it may be a better idea for drivers to stay home than to try to brave the roads,” Gannon said. “If you do try to drive in poor conditions, remember to slow down and take your time and to leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a detailed website with winter driving tips atnhtsa.gov/winter-driving-tips. NHTSA suggests giving your car a winter weather tune-up before conditions turn cold or snowy.
The organization also recommends carrying items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, such as cleaning off the windshield. It also suggests keeping your vehicle stocked with emergency supplies, including blankets for protection from the cold, jumper cables, a flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers. You also may want to have a cell phone with a charger, water and food.
Always keep your gas tank close to full, even in a hybrid-electric vehicle, and make sure your car’s battery is up to the challenges of winter. When the temperature drops, so does battery power, and it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather.
When it comes to driving, clear off your vehicle and windshield before heading out onto the road.
Drive slowly, because it is harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. Increase your following distance so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
If your vehicle has antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you do not have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if the wheels start to lock up.
Gannon added that it’s also a good idea to review your auto insurance policy to make sure you are covered in any situation.