We all know that winter that can wreak havoc on our cars. Freezing temperatures, snow and ice stuck to our windshields and tire pressure drops are just a few examples of winter weather-related hazards we and our vehicles must be able to adapt to and overcome. While we can prepare our cars to ensure they are equipped to handle the sometimes-brutal winter season, we unfortunately cannot prepare the roads that we drive on.
As temperatures drop, winter conditions create perilous conditions on the road. In fact, winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in 500,000 crashes in the U.S., each year , according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This reality underscores the importance of preparing your vehicle and driving both cautiously and defensively to ensure the safety of everyone in your car, as well as others on the road.
But there are several steps drivers can take before they hit the road. For example:
• Be sure to look for the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol branded on a tire's sidewall to ensure your tire meets performance requirements in snow testing to be severe snow service-rated.
• Look at what your manufacturer recommends for your specific vehicle, as original equipment tires are closely developed for your car in partnership with the manufacturer.
• Additionally, always do your research to understand the weather conditions and temperatures that are common in the region you will be driving in – this goes for vacations and road trips, too!
• It's important to stay on top of your tire maintenance. While it is easy to forget about monitoring your tires when there are a million other things to worry about, you don't want to until you've already pushed the tire past its limit to change them. Make sure you check the treads of your tires often – it's as easy as using a penny! Indeed, to measure tread depth, place a penny head down in the grooves. If the top of Lincoln's head is covered, you have over 2/32″ of tread remaining. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, it is time to replace your tires.
Now that you're prepped, you should be ready to hit the road. But you might be asking, “How can I keep myself and others safe after I'm on the road?”
It's a good question and we're here to help.
• For starters, it's important to drive slowwwly. Always make sure you're driving at reasonable speeds and modify your speed to account for lower traction when driving on wet or snowy surfaces.
• Avoid sudden, excessive or aggressive acceleration, steering or braking, as this can cause the vehicle to lose grip.
• Distance yourself from the vehicle in front of you to leave ample distance should you need to stop suddenly.
• If the conditions are tough, don't stop unless you absolutely must. We've all had those moments of panic where we thought we were going to get stuck – or we actually did. Be sure to slow down just enough to keep things moving without coming to a full stop unless you have no choice.
Winters are long, so drivers must remain diligent. Staying on top of preparation is a must, and driving cautiously will help to keep yourself and everyone around you safe. However, it is essential to consistently maintain your winter tires to maximize both performance and control. Drivers can do so by always using four winter tires of the same brand and rotating them every 5,000 – 7,000 miles. Additionally, tire tread depth should be regularly monitored, and winter tires should be stored properly when no longer in use.
As always, exercise extreme caution as it relates to driving in the winter – both before and after hitting the road, as well as when you're on it. Drive safely!