Winter Driving Safety Tips

While the subzero temperatures may have subsided, there’s still much of winter left and still plenty of ice and snow on the roads.

A local dealership and driver instructor offers some tips to stay safe while on the road. The first thing drivers should do is get their car inspected.

“It’s anything from checking tires, breaks, suspension on the vehicle, all the fluids which is really important because if the fluids aren’t the right fluids and aren’t checked before, sometimes it’s a little too late,” said Dan Graebner, Service Manager for Continental Audi of Naperville.

And because not all vehicles were made equally, it’s best to know your vehicle and what safety features it has.

“Getting to know your car and how it’s going to behave is probably the most important thing you can do,” said Jeff Nemcher, Branch Specialist at the dealership. “The technology is there to keep you safe but if you’re not used to it and you over-react, you put yourself in a more dangerous situation a lot of times.”

One of those technologies many cars have nowadays is a traction control system. Check to see if your car has it – if so, make sure it’s on during the winter…a light will typically illuminate when it’s not on.

“Unfortunately when you hit snow, hit gravel, hit different objects in the road, that may send the car spinning in one direction or another that you weren’t intending,” said Nemcher. “The traction control system is there to try to correct that, sometimes by applying breaks, sometimes applying throttle to get the car going in the proper direction.”

And if you have them, antilock breaks can help prevent you from sliding forward on icy roads. If your car has them, it’s best to keep your foot firmly on the break when sliding though your first reaction may be to pump them.

“Basically if you hit the breaks hard, if there’s limited traction under your tires, the car’s going to pulse those breaks multiple times per second to give you the shortest stopping distance possible,” said Nemcher.

While the technology can help, the best guard against an accident is really a careful driver.

“In class we teach that you should try to not drive on other people’s tracks because the snow is packed down there and there’s a layer of ice down there you might not know about so fresh snow provides more traction. It’s easier to drive in fresh snow,” said Payal Patel
Driving Instructor.

Patel says it’s best to decrease speed while increasing the distance between the vehicle in front of you. She suggests about 3 car lengths.

When skidding, keep your foot off both pedals and steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go but be careful not to steer too hard.

“If you’re in a skid, a lot of times your tires will lock so that means it’s not a good idea to push down on the break,” said Patel. “A lot of people, they go into a skid and they panic and they want to over steer in the opposite direction so they go into a secondary skid.”

In case you do end up skidding off the road and getting stuck, it’s a good idea to always pack a survival kit in the car, including jumper cables, flashlights, nonperishable food, water, and sand for traction.

It’s also best to keep the gas tank at full as possible to keep the fuel line from freezing.

Another tip to remember: Clear your tail pipe of all snow and ice when parked on the streets during a snowstorm.

If clogged, carbon monoxide could build up inside the vehicle and be hazardous to your health.

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