What winter weather means for driving?


Being a better driver means giving your vehicle the tender loving care it needs – regular oil changes and a thorough cleaning, for example. But learning a little bit more about the weather can also make an impact on your daily driving habits and how you respond to conditions on the road. Unpredictable weather – especially between winter and spring – can pose plenty of driving challenges. Here’s what you need to know about the weather and your drive.

Rain and Freezing Temps = Slick Roads

This combination can transform roads from dry to slippery in just minutes. Bridges and overpasses may present particular dangers.

Driving strategy: If it starts to drizzle during your drive, take precautions. Turn on headlights to increase visibility and increase your driving distance between cars to six seconds rather than three. Avoid sudden braking to prevent skids. Avoid slamming on the brakes or abruptly correcting your steering. If your vehicle begins to hydroplane, ease off the gas pedal and steer straight until you regain control.

Warm Days and Overnight Freezing = Black Ice

When snow melts during a warm winter day but freezes again overnight, something termed black ice can form. It’s not actually black – just a very thin, shiny-looking sheet of ice that’s often difficult to detect.

Driving strategy: If possible, delay driving until temperatures warm. Otherwise, drive at slower-than-posted speeds and increase your following distance.

Gusty Winds and Temperature Drop = Road Instability

As cold fronts move in, winds often pick up speed. Strong gusts can affect how your car handles, even if you’re driving at normal speeds. Especially after a snowfall, blustery conditions can result in fallen branches, poor visibility, and downed power lines.

Driving strategy: Slow down so it’s easier to brake and handle your car. In addition, choose parking spots away from potential hazards.

Moisture That’s Low in the Atmosphere + a Cold Ground = Dense Fog

In near-freezing temps, the moisture from dense fog can create slick spots on the road and bring visibility to zero.

Driving strategy: Glare from high beams and other lights on the road can make it difficult to spot dangers on the road. Switch on your low-beam or fog headlights to make your own vehicle more visible. Drive slowly and pay attention to make sure you’re driving in one lane.

Recent or Ongoing Snow + Heavy Traffic = Slick Roads

Lots of traffic can turn roads slick, especially if road crews haven’t yet cleared or deiced surfaces. Sharp turns, over-correcting, and slamming on the brakes may all lead to skidding or swerving.

Driving strategy: Increase the distance between you and other drivers, particularly on hills. Allow more time to stop at intersections. Never pass snowplows or sand trucks.

Tip: Skip the cruise control during difficult weather conditions so you can respond more quickly to changing road conditions.

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