Buttoned Up Expert: Winter Driving Safety Tips

Winter Driving Safety Tips

By Brandy Schaffels, AskPatty.com Editor. AskPatty.com is our Auto Expert

With the recent rainstorms in Los Angeles, it’s clear that Winter has arrived across the country. While many Californians think colder weather just means it’s time to swap flip-flops for boots, those who live in frostier climates know that the presence of sleet and snow on the road means your vehicle needs some tougher treads.

Switching to Winter-grade tires isn’t just smart in theory; it can save you real money and even your life. Crash rates spike during the October through February time frame, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2007, 738,000 crashes occurred in rain, sleet or snow. Most resulted in costly property damage, and on average, one in three involved an injury or fatality.

“Those numbers are needlessly high,” says Matt Edmonds, vice president at Tire Rack, America’s largest independent tire tester and a leading resource for consumer tire information. “A little caution, a little research, and most importantly the right ‘footwear’ can mean the difference between wintertime gripping and slipping.” A team of test drivers at www.tirerack.com/winter conducted real-world research for consumers on the company’s test track, a sheet of ice at a hockey rink, and even the demanding winter test courses of Sweden to uncover how the latest tire technologies from multiple manufacturers perform in the snow and on ice. In addition, consumer-generated feedback from thousands of drivers adds valuable data on different types of terrains, road surfaces, altitudes and other variables that can impact a tire’s performance.

Get the Proper Footwear:

To help educate drivers to prepare for a stress-free winter behind the wheel, the Tire Rack testing team suggests you choose the right footwear for your car, saying function, not fashion, should dictate your choice.

Winter Tires

Only Winter tires are designed to excel and provide maximum traction in the colder temperatures, slush, snow, and ice that many parts of the country experience for three or more months a year. Winter tires start with deeper tread depths to obtain maximum traction. Like snow boots, purpose-designed Winter tires offer maximum traction and control in cold, snow, and ice. Tire Rack tests prove that Winter tires offer up to 21 percent more traction than All-Season tires.

All-Season Tires

All-Season tires are for the drivers of passenger cars and minivans, as well as some small SUVs and pickup trucks who want dependable tires that provide all-season versatility, including traction in light snow, but face true winter conditions rarely.

Summer Tires

For anyone lucky enough to live in parts of the country where winter conditions mean nothing more than cooler temperatures and rain, Summer tires are the best option.

A set of dedicated Winter tires can start as low as $300 for a set of four, and can last three or more winter seasons, depending on your driving habits. That’s significantly less than most insurance deductibles and potential rate increases should you have a winter driving-related collision. Resting your regular tires during the winter season also increases their lifespan, saving you even more money in the long run.

Besides proper tires, drivers will want to consider these additional Winter driving safety tips:

Take Your Time:

Make sure you take your time when driving in treacherous conditions. While there is no “correct” speed for driving in the snow, experts suggest you cut your speed to half the posted limit. Drive in lower gears, brake and accelerate slowly, turn gently, and leave plenty of room between your car and the vehicle in front of you to respond to road conditions. Be especially cautious when passing other vehicles and keep an eye out for snow plows and other slow-moving vehicles.

Look Sharp!

Turn on your headlights to ensure maximum visibility for you and to help other drivers see you. Ride in the tracks of the vehicles in front of you, and make sure you’re watching the road for ice chunks or slippery black ice patches. Run your airconditioning to keep your windows defrosted, ensure your wiper blades are fresh , and use a de-icing wiper fluid to help remove snow from the windshield.

Steer into a Spin:

If your vehicle begins to spin, don’t panic: Take your foot off the accelerator, and turn your steering wheel in the same direction that your rear end is moving. (So, if the rear-end is slipping to the right, then turn your steering wheel to the right.)

By Brandy Schaffels, AskPatty.com Editor.