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Winter driving safety: Snow falls and you slow down

Nov 01, 2017 04:28PM ● Published by Travis Barton

Winter is coming. Be prepared.

The long line at the local auto body shop isn’t just for oil changes, it’s for winter tires too. With temperatures dropping and leaves soon to follow, it’s time for a refresher course on safe winter driving. 

1) Know the conditions

Technology affords us the privilege of knowing road conditions before ever leaving the house. 

Utah Department of Transportation has more than 2,200 traffic cameras or sensors which gives visuals and data on all major UDOT roads. Drivers can then adjust their routes or schedules according to the heaviness of traffic making for less congestion and less risk for accidents. 

The UDOT app means you can see all those cameras from your phone. 

Twitter feeds also provide alerts about traffic situations throughout the state, including roads up the canyon. Unified Police have a canyon alerts twitter page for to update traffic in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons as well as tire requirements and road closures. 

2) Prepare the car

Make sure the car is prepared for the road conditions, first with good tires. Snow tires give greater tread for better traction. 

If only two new tires are placed on the car, make sure to put them in the rear. 

With the falling snow, it’s necessary to have quality wiper blades that ensures clear views rather than leaving water streaks across windshield impairing your ability to drive. The wiper fluid reservoir also needs to be replenished before the first snows hit. 

Snow and ice should be completely removed from the windows, headlights and taillights prior to driving to ensure visibility. 

If your car is parked outside overnight, place towels over the windows. This keeps the windows from icing over.

A system should be in place to check everything in your car such as the battery power and your cooling system. Antifreeze helps the vehicle withstand the freezing temperatures. 

The vehicle should also be stocked with a safety items in the case of an emergency. 

The Utah Department of Public Safety suggests on its website to have jumper cables, a tow rope and small shovel in case the car gets stuck, reflectors or flares to make sure your car is visible to others driving, flashlight and batteries, extra winter clothes, first-aid kit, batter or solar powered radio, sleeping bag, fresh water and non-perishable food, paper towels and hand warmers. 

3) Control the vehicle

Keeping the car under control requires some safe driving tips. The most obvious: drive slow. 

Despite our impatience or urgency to get to the desired location, slow driving is the safest driving. Staying under the speed limit, which is meant for ideal conditions, becomes even more important when traveling over snow, ice, standing water or slush. 

In drivers education courses, prospective drivers learn about the rule for distance between your car and the one in front of you. Driving 60 mph? Stay six car lengths back. 70 mph? Seven car lengths back. This distance should be increased even more during wet conditions to allow the car time and space to stop without rear ending the vehicle in front. 

All movements should be gradual rather than sudden. This means avoiding sharp turns, accelerating slowly and braking softly. Though you may have four-wheel drive or even all-wheel drive, this does not give license to drive recklessly in winter conditions. This means staying off cruise control as well. 

The need for seat belts increases tenfold during the winter. With car seats, place coats or blankets around the children after strapping them in. Coats can limit the effectiveness of a car seat.

Stay alert. Deer become more active after storms. Black ice causes many crashes and that ice typically looks like wet spots. If skidding does take place, steer in the direction the back of the car is going and ease off the gas. 

Remember to keep the gas tank at least half way full, it will keep the gas tank from freezing and if you get stuck in a traffic jam, you may need as much gas as possible. 

4) Time

For those of you who struggle with punctuality, this becomes paramount. Giving yourself plenty of time to reach your destination means you won’t rush, decreasing the chances of a crash.

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