Here comes the snow! The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for much of central and western Iowa that could bring up to 8 inches of snow to the Des Moines area.
Are you ready? The Federal Highway Administration estimates 168,300 crashes a year occur on snowy or icy pavement. If you absolutely must drive, follow these tips for driving in the snow.
1. Maintain a safe following distance
Ensure there are 3 seconds between your car and the vehicle in front of you to give yourself enough time to stop safely and avoid a collision. In slick or icy conditions, double the 3-second rule to 6 seconds.
2. Clear snow
If you can’t see out all vehicle windows, you can’t drive safely. Remove snow and ice from all windows and side mirrors.
3. De-ice your windshield
Keep your windshield washer tank full at all times. Be sure wiper blades are in good condition.
4. Learn how to control a skid
In a skid, help gain control by steering in the direction you want your vehicle to go. Remember, don’t just try to straighten out; steer into the skid against the momentum of the vehicle.
5. Avoid using cruise control
You need to be alert and in control at all times, so save cruise control for normal road conditions. In general, avoid using cruise control any time the road surface is less than ideal.
6. Reduce your speed
Slow down. It can take much longer to stop in snowy or icy conditions. Also, ease your foot gently but firmly onto your brakes. Spiking them quickly can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
7. Use your anti-lock brakes (ABS) properly
ABS brakes can be effective, but the feeling under your foot and the grinding sound they make can be jarring. Don’t let this startle you; just maintain firm, constant pressure. Your vehicle owners’ manual explains how they work and how they should be used in inclement conditions.
8. Avoid certain roads
If possible, avoid driving on roads until they’ve been plowed and de-iced. On roads that have yet to be cleared, slow down, turn off your cruise control, and avoid sudden braking or acceleration and unnecessary stops. If you suddenly feel your tires have lost their grip on the road, stay calm and gently steer in the direction you wish to go without over-correcting. Keep a light touch on the steering wheel; a white-knuckle grip can lead to overreaction and loss of control.
For added peace of mind, winterize your car in preparation for the cold season. Driving in snow increases the chances of an accident, so prepare yourself by remembering these safety tips when you get on the road.