Defensive Driving Tips for Winter Weather

According to the State Patrol, the single biggest mistake drivers make when driving in the winter weather is not decreasing their speed.

In an effort to help you drive more safely, here is a list of tips:

1) Leave an eight-second gap between cars when driving in adverse weather. For reference, the gap in regular weather is two- seconds, which means you want to quadruple your driving distance.

2) If you start skidding, do not slam on your breaks. Instead, ease off the gas and rotate the steering wheel in the direction you want the car to go. Seems obvious, but panicked drivers often falsely steer in the opposite direction.

3) Keep your gas tank full. In the event you should be stranded, the gas will become your primary source of heat. In addition, winter weather can cause a half-empty gas tank to rust, depending on how cold it gets outside.

4) Test you car. Defensive driving coaches suggest taking your car out to an empty parking lot and seeing how it responds to snow and ice. Extended Web Coverage

A Motorists Guide to Winter Driving

Pre-Trip Planning

  • To minimize the chances of a weather-related delay, plan ahead with safety in mind.

  • Always be sure to check the forecast; if a winter storm is predicted for the area in which you will be driving, think twice, or ask yourself if the trip is necessary.

  • Always have an emergency car care kit that contains jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, a small shovel, an ice scraper, antifreeze, blankets; nonperishable food; and a first aid kit.

Starting Your Car

  • Be sure to turn off all accessories (radio, heater, lights etc.) before starting your car. This will maximize your battery's starting power.

  • If your car has a fuel injection system, don't touch the accelerator pedal. For carbureted cars, depress the accelerator once before attempting to start the vehicle. Then, simply turn the key and hold it for a few seconds.

Handling Roadside Emergencies

  • Pull as far off the road as possible. This helps to avoid getting hit by another vehicle.

  • Indicate trouble by opening the hood and turning on the vehicle's emergency flashers. Place a "Call Police" sign in the rear window.

  • Stay in the car. Avoid the temptation of accepting a ride with a stranger. Instead, if someone offers help, ask him or her to notify the police if you do not own a cell phone. Leave only with a marked police car or a state or city emergency vehicle.

  • Don't walk or hitchhike, both of which invite trouble-you could either get caught in a storm, or be forced in a dangerous situation involving strangers.

Driving Tips

  • Always wear seatbelts.

  • Remove ice and snow from windows, license plates and lights. Also be sure to clear snow from the vehicle's hood, roof and trunk.

  • Reduce your speed while driving. The posted speed limits are for dry, clear conditions only.

  • Watch for slick spots under bridges and on overpasses.

  • Keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to prevent the vehicle's fuel line from freezing.

Source: contributed to this report.