I saw in the Columbian newspaper's local weather report today that a cold snap may be coming to our Clark County Washington and Portland, Oregon area later this week, possibly even some snow. It reminded me that I need to get the hoses detached and the faucets covered up with insulation at my house and our office, because winter is nearly here. It is also time to winterize our automobiles again – check the antifreeze level and make decisions about tire tread sufficiency and whether to use studs and/or carry chains, and to double-check that there is plenty of windshield washer fluid and good wiper blades on our vehicles.
The other thing to remember, of course, is that we all should slow down and drive even more defensively than usual. This is especially important during and after heavy rains, and in icy or snowy conditions.
The National Traffic Safety Institute publishes a much more comprehensive list of tips for winter driving safety. If you think you may be heading into snow or if there is a possibility you will drive in the snow:
Winter Driving Safety Tips
- Make sure you do a maintenance check on your vehicle before making the trip. Check the vehicle battery, belts and hoses, anti-freeze, oil, lights, brakes, heater and defroster and check the exhaust system for leaks which may allow carbon monoxide to enter the vehicle.
- Plan your route ahead of time and give yourself extra travel time. Make sure someone knows your travel plans.
- Wear comfortable clothing that does not restrict your movement while at the wheel. Keep warm clothing available for when you exit the vehicle.
- Always clear any snow and ice from all windows, lights, mirrors and the roof before driving. After starting the vehicle wait for the interior windows to clear of fog so you will have appropriate visibility.
- Make sure there is sufficient windshield washer fluid in the vehicle reservoir and that it is rated for freezing temperatures.
- It takes longer to stop on slippery surfaces, so add additional time to the three-second rule.
- Know the proper handling procedures for a skidding vehicle.
- Slow down in snow and icy conditions, make turns slowly, and make all starts slow and smooth.
- Remember that bridges and overpasses may freeze before the regular travel lanes of a roadway. Watch out for black ice, areas of the roadway that appear black and shiny and where your vehicle can suddenly lose traction. Slow down in these areas and keep your foot off the brakes.
- If you get stuck or stranded, don't panic. Stay with your vehicle for safety and warmth. Wait for help to arrive. If you have a cell phone and are in an area with cell phone service, try calling for help. Try to always know your exact locations while driving.
- Keep your clothing dry. Wet clothing can lead to dangerous loss of body heat.
The National Traffic Safety Institute also provides a list of items we should keep in our cars during the winter months:
- Ice scraper/snowbrush
- Sand or other type of traction aid
- Tow rope or chain
- Booster cables
- Road flares or warning lights
- Gas line antifreeze
- Flashlight and batteries
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Small tool kit
- Extra clothing and foot wear
- Non-perishable energy foods, like chocolate or granola bars, juice, instant coffee, tea, soup, and bottled water
- Candles and a small tin can to hold the candle
- Water proof matches
Be safe out there!