There may come a time in every driver’s life when the unexpected happens due to some hazard caused by conditions, passengers, and other drivers. With millions of people on the road this holiday season, many of which are driving in areas hard hit by winter snowstorms, it seems like a good time to remind readers of some basic safety tips.
While it is always better not to drive in questionable weather, there are times when it just can’t be avoided. If you must be out on the road decrease your speed and leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you, and be sure to brake gently to avoid skidding on slick roads. If you feel the wheels begin to lock up, ease off the brake carefully.
Other basic safety measures are to make sure your windshield is clear and keep your lights on so other cars can see you. In most states the laws state that your headlights must be on whenever you use your windshield wipers. However, you might want to consider using your low beams, especially when driving in snow and fog. This will reduce the glare and improve your visibility.
Many people become “cocky” if they have 4WD or front wheel drive, thinking their vehicles can handle anything, but that simply isn’t true. Although every vehicle is different, stopping is still an issue. If you sense your rear wheels are skidding, take your foot off the accelerator, tap the breaks, and steer in the direction you are skidding. If you are sliding right, steer right. If you are sliding left, steer left. However, if you start to “fishtail” as you recover from the skid you may have to carefully steer both right and left a couple of times to bring the vehicle back under control. If you sense your front tires are losing contact with the road, take your foot off the gas and shift into neutral, but refrain from steering immediately. As the tires skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle down and you will regain traction. As it does, shift back into drive and accelerate slowly.
If you should become stuck in either a snowdrift or deep mud spinning your wheels will only dig you in deeper. Turn the front wheels from side to side. This will help push the muck out of the way. You should then rock the vehicle back and forth by shifting forward and then reverse a few times, tapping the gas lightly. Keep a bag of sand or kitty litter in your trunk (along with a small shovel) in case of emergencies. Just spread it on the ground under your “driving” tires before trying to free yourself and it will help increase traction, making the entire task much easier.
To learn more check out Diana’s book “Car Ownership for Women” available at Amazon.com and other online sources.