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Jack Frost’s Driving School: Winter Musts for a Safe Season

While spring may not be far off on the calendar, native Pennsylvanians know that snow can continue long into what is technically considered spring. No matter how many years you have proven your winter driving skills, it is never a bad plan to refresh your memory and double-check to ensure that you and your car are ready in case of emergency.

First: Prepare Your Car

When the roads begin to get treacherous here in the northeast, most people are preoccupied with holidays and family visits. Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner may take precedence over checking your car’s heater, and making sure Junior is prepared for his college finals could distract you from the fact that your brakes are getting “iffy.”

Since the busy holiday season has passed and we are still facing several weeks of wintry weather, now is as good a time as ever to ensure that your vehicle is prepared to not only get you safely from point A to point B, but also to keep you safe should you find yourself stuck in a ditch or stranded.

What are some good things to address in your mini-inspection? Beyond making sure that your car is running smoothly, there are a few little details that can make your snowy drives much safer and simpler:

  • Treat yourself to some new wiper blades. For under $20, you can guarantee yourself better visibility—which translates to a safer car!
  • Check to ensure that your headlights (and fog lights, when applicable) are working
  • Ensure that your tires are wearing evenly and have sufficient tread

Another good idea is to create a travel kit for your car. While there are dozens of important things to include, some top choices may be:

  • Snow shovel
  • Sand
  • Extra snow scraper
  • Blanket
  • Winter gloves
  • Hand and foot warmers

Next, Prepare Yourself

Sometimes, our confidence in our winter driving skills grows to invincible proportions, and we often begin to once again develop bad habits. We trust our four-wheel drive and prowess too much—and may drive too fast, follow too close, and apply the brakes too quickly.

When this happens, it is important to take a step back and remember the basics of safe winter driving. One of the easiest ways to fix bad habits is to give yourself extra time to make each trip. Following at a safe distance and giving yourself increased stopping distance can make a big difference in the amount of control you have in the snow. Other good rules to follow include:

  • Driving with your daytime running lights or low beams on
  • Be mindful of snowplows—passing them can be dangerous when their blade is down
  • Keep your cellphone with you (but remember—no texting and driving!)
  • If your car gets stuck, be sure to clear your exhaust pipe of snow and keep a window cracked

To stay informed of the latest road conditions, forecasts, and delays, Pennsylvania drivers have access to PennDOT’s 511PA—free, 24-hour travel information services. Visit the website or dial 511 from your cellphone before your next trip, and get the information you need to ensure that your planned route is safe.

If on your travels you are hurt by a negligent driver, you have the right to receive compensation for your damages, and our firm may be able to help. Call us or begin a live chat to connect with our Harrisburg or West Shore offices today—we look forward to helping you!