3 Keys to Safe Winter Driving

Cars driving in winter storm.

Winter weather can prove hazardous for drivers, especially in our upper Midwest region which experiences harsh storms complete with heavy snowfall and icy conditions. Safety is of the utmost importance to us at Custom Aire, and with a large portion of our workforce responsible for driving company vehicles, we put a high priority on the safety of our employees to keep them (and other drivers on the road) safe. Here are some tips for safe winter driving and survival that are applicable to anything on wheels, from a company fleet like ours to a solo vehicle.

How to prepare for safe driving in hazardous winter conditions.

With everything winter weather has to throw at you, being prepared is one of the most important ways you can help keep yourself safe.

Vehicle maintenance is vital in frigid conditions, and it’s best to have an inspection by a certified technician completed at the start of the season to ensure it’s in top condition. Before driving, especially longer distances, make sure to watch for things like properly inflated tires and that your gas tank is kept at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.

Traveling out of town to a job site? Plan ahead by keeping an eye on the weather forecast, and adjust your schedule as needed to avoid storms and dangerous conditions. It’s a good idea to let others know your planned route and estimated time of arrival beforehand.

Emergency kits should be kept in your vehicle at all times, particularly during long-distance winter travel. A good list of essentials to get you started includes jumper cables, shovel, sand or cat litter, windshield scraper, extra water and food, wool or space blankets, heat packs, flashlight, matches, cell phone and adapter, basic first aid kit, and bright or reflective cloth.

Emergency car kit.
Photo credit: Red Cross.

Protect yourself in winter weather when driving.

Take steps to protect yourself from winter weather threats by using a combination of common sense and doing your research before driving on blustery roads. However obvious it may be, seatbelts and survival go hand in hand. Making sure everyone in the vehicle uses a seat belt at all times is not only following the law, but also one of the simplest ways to ensure your safety in the event of an incident.

Be aware of proper procedures for driving in hazardous conditions, such as never using your cruise control on icy or slick roads, and what to do in the event of an emergency. If you are stopped or stalled, call for help and stay with your vehicle; it provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for responders to find you. Never try to walk to your destination in a severe storm; it is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become disoriented and lost.

Car in ditch during snow storm.

If you are stranded on the roadside and waiting for assistance, clear your exhaust pipe to keep carbon monoxide from leaking into the passenger compartment. Tie a brightly colored cloth or reflective material to your antenna or place it in a rolled-up window as a signal anyone passing by that you need help. If it is dark, keep the dome light on inside the vehicle if possible – it only uses a small amount of electricity and can help rescuers locate you. Additionally, warmth is key to survival in frigid weather. Use anything you can to insulate your body from the cold, such as newspaper, floor mats, or maps.

Take extra caution to prevent emergencies in winter driving conditions.

Prevent emergency situations as much as possible by being extra cautious in this bitterly cold season. From accelerating and braking to waiting for pedestrians or cyclists crossing the street, everything about travel in winter takes longer – drive slowly and with extreme caution. Be patient and allow for extra travel time to avoid being in a hurry.

Increasing the distance between cars is important in this climate, too. Not every car is as fit for the winter roads as the next, and some drivers are less experienced or far more careless than they should be in dangerous driving conditions. Proactively plan for this by being vigilant and aware of your surroundings to allow for ample time to react to any situation and keep yourself safe.

At Custom Aire, we put a high priority on safety for everything we do and cannot stress enough the importance it brings to keeping each job site and employee protected. Have these three keys to safe winter driving in mind on the roads this season to help keep yourself and those around you out of harm’s way.