Winter Driving Safety Tips (courtesy of Arbella Insurance)

New England’s colder months can turn our neighborhoods into picturesque winter wonderlands, but they can also turn our roads into treacherous, icy pathways. Falling snow, slippery conditions, debris, decreased visibility and more all require extra planning—and some New England know-how.
Here are some critical tips for driving in a New England winter.

1.) How to drive on wet or icy roads

AAA recommends that drivers reduce their speed and increase the distance between them and the vehicle ahead. Wet pavement causes thousands of accidents every year, and icy pavement can make driving more dangerous, or even impossible. If you find yourself facing wet or icy conditions, slow down and stay calm.

Black ice will exaggerate your motions, so resist the urge to swerve or brake hard if you find yourself sliding on a patch. Swerving may cause you to spin, and braking may make you skid. Simply take your foot off the accelerator and try to keep your wheel straight. If you must turn, do so gently and at a speed consistent with the conditions. If you need to brake, softly pump the pedal; or, if your car is equipped with anti-locking or ABS brakes, keep the pressure steady and your car will pump the brakes for you.

Pay extra attention to bridges and overpasses, areas that don’t get much sunlight, and almost everywhere at night and in the morning when temperatures dip below freezing. These places and times pose the highest risk for icing. If the road looks glossy, or if you see cars ahead of you swerve, know that there may be ice present. .

2.) Look out for debris

Ice and snow can be heavy. When they build up on tree limbs and power lines, one snap can turn them into dangerous road obstructions. Pair that with poor visibility and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Unless, of course, you’re prepared!

During wintertime and especially after a storm, use extra caution when driving near trees and power lines. Travel at speeds that respect the conditions. A slower-moving car is more likely to have enough time to stop before it hits a fallen tree branch. Ensure your tires are in good condition. Check for any damage, inadequate tread, or low pressure before heading out. Never engage in distracted driving behaviors such as texting, social media, eating and drinking, etc., especially during winter weather.

3.) What to do when you can’t see

If you’re faced with poor visibility, remember that everyone else is, too. Keep your lights on, opt for low beams and fog lights instead of high beams (weather particles in the air can scatter light, making it even more difficult for your fellow drivers to see), and use your blinkers long before you need to turn.

If conditions are so bad that you can’t stop your car within the length of road you’re able to see, get off the road immediately. Keep an emergency kit stocked with snacks, water, blankets, flashlights, spare batteries for your phone or other devices, and anything else you may need to either call for help or wait out the poor conditions.

4.) How to protect your kids, passengers, and yourself

Crashes and driving conditions aren’t the only things to keep in mind this winter. Remember that winter behaviors can be risky, too.

If you’re driving with car seat-aged children, avoid buckling them in with puffy coats on. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that caregivers lay the puffy coat (or a blanket) over the car seat harness, never under! The harness should be snug fitting and placed according to your manufacturer’s guidelines. Puffy coats can compress from the impact of a crash, meaning that a child wearing one may not be as tightly-buckled as you might think.

Additionally, never warm up your car in an enclosed space. Running cars release carbon monoxide – posing a range of health issues. This can happen outdoors, too. If you’re driving in winter weather, double check that your exhaust pipe isn’t blocked by snow or ice before starting your car.

As always, keep a well-stocked emergency kit on hand. You never know when it might come in handy!