By Emilia “Lavender” Liem, Copy Editor

Wintery conditions often mean bad traffic. What better excuse to stay indoors than to avoid sitting in a car for hours on the highway?

Snow, and especially ice, can be dangerous foes in the winter months. Unless one grew up shoveling snow 10 feet deep out of the driveway, people can be ill-prepared for slick ice, freezing rain, sleet, snow or slush. According to safemotorist.com, the three basic rules you must follow when it comes to driving in winter conditions are: be alert, slow down and stay in control. Here are some tips on how to safeguard your car and maneuver yourself safely while driving this winter.

1. Stay at home if possible. Do you really need to pay a visit to the mall? Do you have to get the latest “Call of Duty”? Think of it this way: is it worth risking your life to venture out to do whatever it is you need or want to do? It may sound overdramatic, but driving on ice is definitely a gamble.

2. Maintain your car. Take it to a mechanic to make sure everything is in working order and that your car is ready for the colder weather. Have the mechanic check everything, from the battery to the windshield wipers. Check your tires to make sure the tread depth is still OK. To do this, place a penny in the tread so Lincoln is upside down. If you can see the top of his head, it may be time to get new tires.

3. Put together a car emergency kit. The kit should contain a first-aid kit, batteries, a flashlight, a blanket, non-perishable food items such as granola bars or trail mix, flares, an AM/FM radio, bottles of water, jumper cables and a simple tool kit. For the winter, you should add kitty litter (you can pour it on the ground and to create traction for your tires), ice scraper, windshield de-icer, a snow shovel, extra blankets, clothes and, if possible, chains to put on your tires.

4. Make sure you can fully see out of your windows. To defrost your windows, turn your car engine on and run the car for a few minutes, turning on the defroster option in the car. Use an ice scraper and a windshield de-icer to speed up the process. This is a chemical spray that dissolves ice quickly.

5. Remember to turn on your headlights. It sounds silly, but drivers will often forget to turn on their lights because it’s not raining or foggy. But if the lights aren’t on, other drivers will not be able to see you. Make sure both your headlights and taillights are in working condition before driving.

6. Be conscientious of your driving. Be alert and never drive when you are tired. Do not follow the driver in front of you too closely. Brake earlier and also brake gentler than you are used to, since the roads are slippery – the same goes for accelerating. Be gentle with the steering wheel, too – no sudden or jerky movements. Avoid using cruise control, because you will need to react instantly if needed. Cruise control can often cause drivers to be more distracted since there’s no need to monitor speed.

7. Watch for icy areas. Spots that don’t get a lot of sun, bridges and sometimes intersections are susceptible to ice. Drive with caution through these areas. Be especially cautious of “black ice” – these slick patches of ice can often look like a harmless puddle.

If all else fails, drive as if the entire road was covered in ice. You may receive honks and rude stares for driving at a turtle’s pace, but it’s your life in your own hands. Be safe, smart and alert this winter and drive carefully!

Sources:
http://www.safemotorist.com/articles/winter_driving.aspx
http://www.suite101.com/content/snow-driving-and-ice-driving-a180947
http://www.edmunds.com/ownership/safety/articles/124638/article.html

Photo credit
www.ridelust.com