Winter driving can be challenging, especially for new drivers. It’s important to be aware of the different road conditions and vehicle issues that can arise during the winter months.
One of the most important things to consider is the condition of the roads. Snow and ice can make roads slippery, making it difficult to control your vehicle. It’s important to slow down and leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. This will give you more time to react to any sudden changes in road conditions.
Here are a few tips to help new drivers build judgment on how slow or cautious they should be when driving on slippery roads:
- Always obey posted speed limits and traffic signs. In snowy and icy conditions, posted speed limits may be lower than usual to account for the increased difficulty of driving in these conditions.
- Use the “Three-Second Rule” to ensure you are leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you. This means that you should count “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three” after the vehicle in front of you has passed a certain point. If you reach that point before you finish counting, you are following too closely and should slow down.
- Use the wheels of the vehicle in front of you as a guide. If the vehicle in front of you is sliding or fishtailing, it’s a sign that the road surface is slippery, and you should reduce your speed accordingly.
- Avoid sudden movements such as sudden braking or sharp turns, as they can cause your vehicle to lose traction and slide. Instead, brake and turn very gently.
Another important aspect of winter driving is the condition of your vehicle. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have enough tread to provide good traction. It’s also a good idea to have an emergency kit in your vehicle, including items such as a shovel, ice scraper, and blanket.
Here are a few tips to help new drivers identify tires with good tread, when to consider getting new tires, and what types of tires work best in snowy and icy conditions:
- Tires with good tread will have deeper grooves in the rubber, which will help to displace water and snow and provide better traction. To check the tread depth, you can use a tread depth gauge or the “penny test”. To do the penny test, take a penny and place it upside down in the tread of the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tires.
- The legal minimum tread depth is 2/32 inch, below that the tires are considered worn out, and it’s time to replace them.
- Winter tires are specially designed for snowy and icy conditions and are made with a rubber compound that remains flexible in cold temperatures. They also have deep grooves and sipes (small slits) which help to displace snow and water and provide better traction.
- All-season tires are a good option for people who live in areas with mild winters and the occasional snowfall. These tires are designed to provide good performance in a variety of conditions, but they may not be as effective as winter tires in heavy snow and ice you may encounter around McHenry County, Illinois.
- Consider a set of winter tires to use during the winter months, and a set of all-season tires for the rest of the year.
It’s a good practice to keep the gas tank at least half full during the winter months, especially if you are planning a long trip. This will help to ensure that your vehicle stays running smoothly, even in cold weather conditions. Having a low gas tank can also make it more difficult to keep the vehicle warm if you end up stranded in a snowstorm. A full tank of gas can provide enough fuel to run the heater for a longer period of time, keeping you and your passengers warm until help arrives.
If you do get stuck in the snow, don’t panic. The first thing to do is to stay in your vehicle and call for help. Running your engine and turning on your emergency flashers will help other drivers see you. If you need to get out of the vehicle, be sure to wear warm clothing and boots.
Overall, winter driving requires more attention and preparation than driving in other seasons. By being aware of the potential hazards and taking steps to prepare, new drivers can stay safe on the road during the winter months.