By: Julie E. Lee
No matter how many years of driving experience you may have, adverse weather never fails to present a wide variety of driving challenges. Snow, ice, fog and early nightfall are just a few of the dangerous conditions you could encounter during the winter months
Knowing how to drive safely in harsh weather conditions can protect you, your passengers and your vehicle. Follow these 5 tips for driving in winter weather to help you stay safe on the road.
- Prepare your vehicle. Make sure your brakes, wipers, defroster, headlights and heater are all working properly. Your best defense against unfavorable weather is a well-maintained vehicle. Also be sure to equip your car with emergency supplies so you are prepared if something goes wrong. Be sure to include blankets, food, water, spare fuses, a flashlight with batteries, an ice scraper, flares and a first-aid kit.
- Clean up and clear off your vehicle. Clear all snow and ice from your vehicle's hood, windows and roof before driving. You can’t always control what you encounter on the road but, you can reduce the dangers your vehicle adds to the roadway. Clearing snow from your vehicle before driving will not only increase visibility, but also prevent a chunk of snow or ice from flying off your car and endangering another vehicle.
- Slow down. Reducing your speed and increasing the distance between your car and the one in front of you are always good driving practices, but are especially important during adverse weather. It takes more time than usual to stop on icy or wet roads, so allowing more space between cars means there is ample time to stop and less chance of a rear end collision. Stopping slowly and gently will also help you avoid skidding. If your wheels lock up, ease off the brake. In wet driving conditions, do not drive faster than the windshield wipers can clear water from the windshield.
- Turn on your headlights. Snow and rain can be difficult to see through but your headlights increase your visibility to other motorists.Keep your lights clean and free of ice or debris and know the rules of the road. Although it is always a good idea, some states require headlights to be on when using windshield wipers.
- Stay alert and look ahead. Give yourself more time to process the roadway in front of you and react. Take extra precautions on bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas, which can freeze first, and remain icy longer than roadways.
While driving in unfavorable weather is manageable when approached with caution, sometimes it’s simply not safe and the best option is to stay home. If you feel you could use a driving refresher, consider taking the AARP Smart Driver™ Course—AARP Driver Safety’s flagship offering and the nation’s first and largest refresher course designed specifically for older drivers. In this interactive and informative course you can learn how to safe driving habits and even how to assess your own abilities as a driver. The AARP Smart Driver Course is available in a classroom and online, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for a multi-year insurance discount upon completion of the course.*
For more information, visit www.aarp.org/safedriving or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).
*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.
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Julie E. Lee is Vice President and National Director of AARP Driver Safety in the Education and Outreach group at AARP. She directs the largest driver improvement course in America designed for drivers age 50 and older. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .