(Steer clear of polar bears!)
Winter driving calls for special skills. On slippery roads, the keys to safety are slower speeds, gentler stops and turns, and longer following distances.
These tips on Winter Driving Safety are courtesy of the Idaho Transportation Department:
- Keep your vehicle in the best possible driving condition. The lights, tires, brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, and radiator are especially important for winter driving.
- Keep your windows clear. Don’t start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean-even if you’re going only a short distance. Keep your windshield washer reservoir filled with a non-freezing solution all winter.For safety reasons, you should not use cruise control if the road is wet and/or icy.
- Buckle up. All occupants are required to wear safety belts and/or shoulder straps when riding in a vehicle equipped with them. Buckling up is your best defense against injuries in a crash.
- Get the feel of the road by starting out slowly and testing your steering control and braking ability. Avoid spinning your tires when you start by gently pressing your gas pedal until the car starts to roll. Start slowing your car down at least three times sooner than you normally do when turning or stopping.
- When stopping, avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel and pump the brake gently. (Check your vehicle owner’s manual; if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you may apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.)
- Use tire chains on very slippery roads. (Some states require chains to be carried during winter months; check for specific information before driving in other states.)
- Be aware of potential icy areas such as shady spots, bridges, and overpasses. Ice may form sooner or remain on bridges and overpasses longer, since they are exposed on their undersides and are deprived of ground warmth. Snow and ice also stay longer in shaded areas.
- In Idaho, studded snow tires may be used only from October 1 to April 30. Some years, the Idaho Transportation Department adjusts the dates due to weather conditions.
Snow Removal Equipment
- Use extra caution when encountering snow removal equipment; snowplow blades force snow up and off the road, potentially causing blizzard-like conditions and reduced visibility for drivers following too closely.
- Use caution when driving in winter conditions, and cooperate with highway workers clearing the roads.
- Remain two car lengths behind snowplow trucks for every 10 mph you drive. Sand being spread by trucks can damage your vehicle.
- Do not pass a snowplow unless it is absolutely necessary.
- If you must pass, do so only when you can clearly see the road ahead. Do not pass on the side where the plow is spraying snow. If you do, the snow’s force can knock your car out of control. Do not cut back immediately in front of a snowplow truck. The plow blades are often covered with snow and can be difficult to see.
- Do not brake suddenly if you are traveling in front of a snowplow. The heavy vehicle cannot stop as quickly as your automobile.
- Do not abandon your car unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must, leave it as far off the road as possible. Abandoned cars can interfere with the road clearing process and can be extremely hazardous to snow removal equipment and the operators if they are hidden or buried by snow.
Getting Stranded During Winter Weather
Idaho winters can be severe, particularly in the mountains. When traveling in winter months, be prepared in case your vehicle breaks down or you get into an accident. You should keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car.
The kit should include:
- flashlights with extra batteries
- first aid kit
- pocket knife
- at least one blanket or sleeping bag
- an extra set of gloves, socks and a wool cap
- small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under the wheels
- small shovel
- bottled water, energy bars or other non-perishable food items
- booster cables and emergency flares
- a brightly-colored scarf to attract attention in case of an emergency
- waterproof matches or cigarette lighter
- map of the area where you plan to travel.
If you run your car for heat, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow. If available, tie a scarf or bright cloth on the car antennae for snow crews to see.
Let someone know your travel plans, including estimated departure and arrival times, route, and where you will stay when you reach your destination.
Be courteous and call those who may be worried when you arrive at your destination. Keep in contact. If you have a cell phone, make sure it is charged, and carry a list of emergency phone numbers.
If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle if heavy snow is falling. Most deaths occur when people leave their car, get lost, and freeze.
In case of medical emergencies in areas where roads have not been plowed, call the local or state police. These agencies will work with search and rescue personnel and the Idaho Transportation Department to respond to emergencies.
Idaho’s 511 Traveler Services
For travel information, dial “511” or go to www.511.idaho.gov for up-to-date information on weather-related road conditions, traffic incidents and delays, and emergency road closures