There is no doubt that highway safety is one of the major concerns on family road trips. This is especially true in winter when ice and snow can make driving conditions particularly treacherous. Note that with the arrival of the winter holidays on the West Coast, you will have to encounter icy, rainy, snowy driving conditions.

Although some parts of the West Coast enjoy the sunshine during winter, you will find snow in many pockets of northern California, especially from December to March. You probably know that the weather has a habit of changing quite quickly, particularly during the winter season. Did you know that powerful winter storms can easily bring copious amounts of both snow and ice, with blowing snow and whiteout conditions? 

Also, it is worth noting that slush, snow, or icy roads are involved in almost one in 4 weather-related car crashes. It is no secret that driving carefully and slowly is a must. Note that driving on snow or ice-covered roads can be quite challenging and tricky – even for the most seasoned drivers in the best-prepared cars.  

While it is impossible to have perfect road conditions throughout the year, there are some precautions you can take in order to make winter driving safer. Follow these tips and suggestions to help you get ready and prepared for the various hazards of winter. 

Prevention is the Best Solution

Driving carefully and slowly while maintaining enough room between you and the next vehicle is one of the easiest ways to avoid accidents. While we all would like to get to our destinations faster, note that those extra 20 or 30 minutes may save your life. Also, in bad or inclement weather, allow for three-to-twelve times more stopping distance depending on the type and size of your vehicle.

Check the Road Conditions 

It is no secret that weather conditions usually change quickly, especially when you travel through locations that have varying landscapes. Firstly, you need to consider whether the road trip is important enough to risk your safety, the safety of your car, and the safety of others on the road.  Also, make sure that you check the current road conditions as well as any updated alerts or advisories for the highways and roads you will travel on. 

Stock your Vehicle with Winter Essentials 

Keep in mind that even with full preparation, you can expect some surprises with extreme weather conditions. It is essential to make sure that Mother Nature does not catch you off guard. You can ensure this by having a couple of basic winter weather equipment and tools packed in your vehicle.

Some of these items are a shovel, ice scraper, broom, jumper cables, flashlight, blankets, warning devices (flares), and high-calorie non-perishable food. You should also stock your car with some emergency supplies, such as diapers and baby formula.

Avoid Driving Under the Influence

Did you know that almost 60 percent of road accidents are the result of reckless or improper driving? So, whether you have had a bit too much pie or pilsner, refrain from driving until you’re fully awake.

While most adults now know well enough not to drink and drive, note that few realize that accidents can be just as easily caused by being sleepy or impaired by various legal drugs, such as cold medicines. Whenever you are in doubt, pull over to the side of the road or just check into a nearby motel for a nap.

Use Winter Tires

Although not everyone needs snow or winter tires, if you live in an area where ice, snow, or freezing temperatures are quite common, they can undoubtedly be a life-saving investment. You should preferably use dedicated winter tires. These tires are carefully designed to provide the best traction on the road when winter weather is at its worst.

Note that tire experts will probably tell you that standard or all-season tires that come with most cars will work well in mild winter conditions, especially when they are new. However, keep in mind that these tires will not help you much when the going gets tough. This is why you should use winter tires for your winter trips.

Steps to Take if Your Vehicle Breaks Down

Keep in mind that even if you are prepared and had your car winterized, a lot may happen because of cold and snow, causing your car to breakdown in the middle of the road. As a result, you can encounter serious problems and even get stranded.  

If this happens, don’t panic and remember these winter driving safety tips to stay safe:

  • Call for help immediately
  • If you are on the highway, call 911. If you are not in grave danger, call your state’s highway emergency number
  • Do not try to move your vehicle out of snow all by yourself
  • You should set up properly reflective triangles at distances of about 10 feet, 100 feet, and 200 feet
  • If you get stuck, wrap yourself in a blanket in order to stay warm

Driving in winter weather is challenging, even for very experienced drivers. Slowing down, devoting all your attention to the road, and being fully aware of changing weather conditions will help you drive more safely.