How to Be a Safer Driver During the Winter Season

Winter is here!  And while there may not be any White Walkers, the roads have turned white with rock salt.  Driving on the New York roads in winter can be a dangerous affair.  If neglectful, a car can take a serious beating.  However, if the proper precautions are taken, one can save a lot in their wallet, and maybe save their life.

Of course the biggest concern with winter driving is having to get around on snowy or icy roads.  According to safewinterroads.org, “24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.”

This is of particular concern to students attending a commuter campus as the school doesn’t always close for winter weather, and so many will have to drive in not so safe conditions.  But again, with the proper precautions, you can save yourself from a nightmare.  Some may think that with a four-wheel drive vehicle, they have nothing to worry about on winter roads, but that’s not really the case. Four-wheel drive may make it easier to get yourself moving on snowy ground, but the name of the game is traction, meaning your tires are the most important part of your car.  It doesn’t matter how many wheels you have spinning if none of them can grip the road.  So make sure your tires aren’t bald.

A good way to do this is the penny trick where you place a penny with Lincoln’s head facing downward into tire tread. If Lincoln’s head is completely visible, it is likely time to replace your tires.

Additionally, it may be a good idea to invest in a set of snow tires.  With a good set of snow tires, even some rear-wheel drive cars can conquer the snowy roads.

However, snow tires will wear down faster than a set of regular road tires. So ideally you would want a set of regular tires that you can rotate with the seasons. This is understandably not ideal for most people due to cost and storage. In this case, one may consider a good set of the All-Season tires.

“They’re good until about 3-inches of snow,” said Douglas Marschner, mechanic and former tire technician at goodyear. They will degrade faster than regular tires, but not as fast as snow tires.

In the event that you find yourself stuck in a snowbank or a ditch, you may find yourself at the mercy of other drivers. A good preparation for this is to carry a tow strap in your car. That way, if a friendly driver in a more snow competent vehicle comes along, they can give you a pull back onto the road.

A good habit to get into in this situation is to attach the strap yourself.  If someone drives by and sees that you have already done the dirty work, they are much more likely to stop and give you a hand.

The smallest thing can make a world of difference when protecting your car for winter weather.  Take that salt for example, while it may be a fun gag to write “wash me” on someone’s dirty windshield, but that’s actually a pretty helpful suggestion. That rock salt is corrosive and can wreak havoc on your car’s frame. That $12 car wash now could make the difference of hundreds if you should ever wish to sell.

Also, be careful when removing snow off of your car. Ice can be as sharp as glass and if you’re not careful, that ice can make a nasty gouge on your paint. Before you start to remove the built up snow, let your defroster do the work and get that ice and snow nice and soft.

Being proactive is always better than reactive and a minor repair now will always be cheaper than a major repair later. And remember, we’re all in it together out there!

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