So far, the winter of 2021 – 2022 has been a relatively mild in the Northeast. However, we are now experiencing a whopper of a storm. The last time New Englanders experienced a storm of this magnitude was in 2015 where more than two feet of snow was registered.
According to experts, New Englanders are about to be temporarily immobilized with the arrival of more than a foot of snow, which can make driving your vehicle pretty scary in the event you need to venture out on the roadway. This applies to the post storm period too.
To reduce risk of any type of accident, it’s always best to stay home and avoid traveling the roads. But in the event you must venture out for whatever reason – milk, formula, coffee, eggs, etc. – we strongly recommend you take into consideration the following tips while behind the wheel.
1A. Remove snow from your vehicle hood, roof and trunk area before hitting the roads
Why is this important? Safety and visibility. Last thing you need is any snow debris obstructing your vision or the driver’s vision behind you. In some states, police may ticket you if you haven’t cleaned all the snow from your vehicle. For example, in Massachusetts, police can use a couple of statutes to enforce snow-clearing. Officers can issue a $40 fine for impeded operation if a driver has obstructed windows and a $200 fine for driving with an unsecured load, which can include heavy sheets of snow or ice on a car’s roof. In Connecticut, State Police will fine you $92 or $120. It is a $92 fine for snow or ice obstructing your view, $120 with snow or ice on the roof of a car. If a car has both, drivers can be fined both, $92 and $120.
Get yourself a snow broom to avoid scratching your car. Snow brooms allow you to push heavy, wet snow off the roof, hood or any hard-to-reach place. This is especially true for owners of SUVs or Minivans. Many snow brooms have telescopic handles that can extend upwards of 50-inches allowing you maximum reach without much hassle. Some of these snow brooms have ice scrapers too, to assist with any ice buildup on the front and back windows.
1B. Remove snow from all your vehicle lights and windows
Common sense, but best to make it obvious here. Make sure all snow is clear of your vehicle’s lights. This include front headlights and rear tail lights. All windows, front, rear and side must be clear of snow and ice.
While you are cleaning snow from your windshield, remove any snow or ice between your windshield wipers and the windshield.
2. Don’t follow the speed limit
Forget speed limits while driving in the snow. It’s all about getting from your starting point to your destination and back if you need to. The best way to do that is drive below the posted speed limit. Only drive as fast as it is safe to drive. If you’re cruising along a 35-MPH zone but your car is slip-sliding away, maybe it’s time to slow down. If you’ve got traffic piling up behind you wanting to get past, pull over and let them pass. Winter is no time to cave to peer pressure to drive faster than you’re comfortable or capable. Better to get there eventually than not at all.
3. Check the condition and air pressure of your tires.
If you’ve already had them checked by your local auto mechanic, there’s probably little to worry about. But if you haven’t checked the tire tread and the air pressure, do so immediately. These are critical to safe travel. If your tire tread is not adequate, quickly get your tires replaced. There is still time. There are tire-tread indicators in the tire that will tell you the tire is near end of life.
Check your tire pressure. Your manufacturer’s recommended PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) for your tires is listed inside the driver’s door on a sticker or in the owner’s manual. For driving in the snow, experts recommend inflating about 3-5 PSI higher to increase tire stability and help increase your tires’ responsiveness. After the storm is over, reduce pressure to the proper recommended rating.
4. Don’t follow too closely behind the next car
Leave twice the normal space you’d leave for a safe following distance to account for not being able to stop in time. One of the most common mistakes people make when driving in snowy conditions is to follow too closely in traffic, which can lead to pileups. Don’t be the cause of a pileup (or a participant in one!). Keep your distance. And keep two hands on the wheels at all times. Forget the mobile phone!
5. Don’t pause your vehicle on a hill
Whether you are making your way up a hill or heading down a hill, snow builds up under your tires causing them to spin and potentially lose traction. If you are making progress up a hill, do not stop – keep climbing. If you are heading down a hill, drive slowly while staying in control of your vehicle. Don’t forget to leave a large distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front to avoid any potential collision.
6. Don’t forget to keep a winter emergency kit in your car at all times
You can either buy one from an auto parts store or you can make one yourself. Whatever method you prefer, make sure you never leave the house in wintry conditions without having that little lifesaver in your backseat or trunk. Common ingredients of a great winter-emergency roadside kit includes a flashlight, road flares, a first aid kit, extra clothes, gloves, blankets, chemical hand warmers, a fully charged spare cell phone, and a small shovel to help dig you out in case you get stuck.
Driving in winter doesn’t have to be a game of roulette. As long as you take certain precautions and use your head wisely, you should be able to weather the storm without any horror stories to tell, come the spring thaw.
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