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Winter Driving Tips

There are several measures drivers can take to ensure they are prepared for the winter driving season and its hazards. While Jimmy Maass, Safety Coordinator at Farm Bureau Insurance, cautions people to avoid driving in icy and snowy conditions, he understands preparation is only the first step. It is not realistic to think people can stay home during inclement weather.

“Obviously, the number-one rule when you drive in snow and ice is slow down,” Maass said. “Most driving is done locally, and the risk of the extra speed to save a negligible, at best, amount of time on the road just isn’t worth it.”

If you have to get out and drive, Maass suggests the following tips to help you safely navigate bad-weather winter driving:

  • Allow yourself extra time to take it slow and leave early. Slow down and allow extra room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full in case you need to take an alternate or longer route, or if you choose to turn back.
  • Keep your windshield and windows clear, and stop in a safe place during your journey to re-clear your sightlines. Use the car defroster and a clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog.
  • Turn on your headlights to increase your ability to see and be seen on the road.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding. Avoid sudden stops or quick changes in direction. Use lower gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Be careful on bridges and overpasses because they will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, ice will form on the road in shady spots or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  • If you can help it, try not to pass snow plows or sanding trucks. The road in front of them is in worse condition and unpredictable. Besides, they have limited vision.

Maass also points out that if your rear wheels skid, remember to take your foot off the accelerator and steer your car into the skid.

“The two most common mistakes drivers make,” Maass says, “is having an overconfidence in their own driving ability or their car’s ability to handle poor conditions. Four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles are not immune to poor road conditions. The other mistake sounds simple enough, but we point it out every winter: If you get stuck, don’t spin your wheels. That only digs you in deeper.”

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