Winter Driving Safety

For many teenage drivers in New Hampshire, this will be their first winter as drivers. The following are some driving tips and safety information for both new and seasoned drivers to keep in mind.

Tips
Clean any snow, ice, or slush off of your vehicle before you drive. It’s illegal to have ice and snow buildup on your car as it can fly off at high speeds and endanger other drivers.

Drive for the road conditions. Go slower if the roads are snowy, slushy, or icy.  (This could mean going slower than the speed limit!) In bad weather, many highways reduce the legal speed limit so keep that in mind when planning to travel.

Brake gently when slowing down to avoid sliding. Once your vehicle is sliding, it can be difficult to regain control. You want to keep your tires gripping the road as much as possible.

Give plenty of room to plow trucks, emergency vehicles, and other drivers. When the roads are slippery, you need significantly more room to slow down and/or stop to avoid a collision.

Allow extra time for travel. If you aren’t running late, you won’t need to speed.

Do a winter vehicle safety check and keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. See the check lists for both below:

Winter Vehicle Safety Check

Ensure tires have good tread depth. Tires with worn or very little tread will not grip the road effectively.

Tires are properly inflated. In cold weather, tires may not grip the road/stop effectively if not properly inflated. Tires not inflated to recommended pressures also wear more quickly, decreasing the life of your tires.

Windshield wipers are working properly. Wiper fluid is topped off. Having an extra jug of wiper fluid stored safely in a cargo area is also a good idea if taking a long trip.

Battery is in working order. There is nothing worse than having a dead battery when it is mid-winter in New Hampshire. You can have your battery checked or serviced at many local auto shops.

Make sure your lights are working. Have someone assist you: turn on your daytime running lights, regular night lights, high beams, blinkers, and hazard lights (flashers). With the increase in darkness during the winter, making sure your vehicle lights are operating is crucial for driving safely.

Ensure your defrost/defog systems are in working order. Checking this may be as simple as turning on your vehicle during a frosty morning to see if your windshield clears of ice. If this has problems, be sure to get it serviced. Having a fogged or iced windshield while driving is extremely dangerous.

Have your oil changed regularly, just as you would in the summer time. Depending on the age and type of vehicle, your auto body shop may recommend a different type of engine oil during the colder months.

Emergency Kit

Personal Safety

  • Food (Non-perishable items like candy bars, crackers, etc.)
  • Water (Or something else like a sports drink that will hydrate)
  • Flashlight (Remember to put in fresh batteries)
  • Blankets or warm clothes like gloves/hats/socks
  • Hand warmers
  • Cell phone charger
  • Extra Supply of Medication (If possible and/or necessary)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Pencil/note pad (To take notes in case of a crash or instructions for vehicle towing.)

Having a personal safety kit may not seem immediately important but having the resources available will help in an emergency.

Emergency Vehicle Tools

  • Shovel
  • Sand/kitty litter
  • Heavy duty mats
  • Ice scraper/brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra windshield wiper fluid

Having emergency tools may take up a bit of room in your cargo area, but these will be extremely helpful if you break down or get stuck. Being able to shovel yourself out of a snowbank while using the sand and floor mats to assist with gaining tire traction may be much quicker than waiting for a tow truck. If you do get your vehicle unstuck, make sure to check your vehicle for damage. If the damage is severe, you may need to have it serviced or towed for repairs before it is safe to drive.

PRACTICE

Practice winter driving skills in a safe environment with an experienced driver. This generally means an empty parking lot with snow cover. Each vehicle handles differently in the snow based on tire type, wheel drive type (all-wheel, front, rear, 4×4), and vehicle weight/height.

Get to know how your vehicle drives by practicing basic skills you are already learning: starting, stopping, cornering, backing up, parking, etc. All of these will feel different in the snow and will take some time to get used to. Make a point to (safely) put your vehicle into a slide whether going forward, reverse, or cornering and attempt to regain control. Knowing what this feels like to slide and how to recover will help make it more manageable when it happens in real life situations.