From one of our recent PEMCO Northwest Polls, we know that motorists are generally uneasy about driving in the snow. Only one-quarter (26%) of those polled say they’re very comfortable navigating in slippery conditions.
Where does that leave the rest of us? We’re likely uncomfortable or underprepared, and – especially for teens who may encounter winter driving conditions for the first time – inexperienced.
For overconfident teen drivers in their first winter behind the wheel, a parent’s favorite tip may be, "Don't drive at all." But in some Northwest corners, there’s no getting around a wintry forecast or an unexpected snowfall.
If you absolutely need to be on the road, here are three tips for first-time drivers:
Prepare your car for winter driving. Prevent wintertime woes by following our 10-point checklist, which covers items to check like antifreeze, wiper blades, and tire pressure. Also, start the “half tank” rule. Until spring returns, make sure to fill up immediately when the gauge registers half full. That way, you needn’t worry about running out of gas if you’re ever stuck in traffic during a cold or snowy commute.
Assemble a winter driving kit. Don’t wait until after you’ve had your first issue to start carrying essentials like a crank flashlight, water, tire chains, a first aid kit, and other items MacGyver probably wouldn’t need. I have a pair of winter boots that rumble around my trunk at every sharp turn, but they’ve saved me twice: once when I had to abandon my car, and another time when I needed more sensible shoes to drive in.
Brush up on winter driving scenarios. You can’t really practice braking on iced-over roads or coming out of hydroplaning, so refer to your Washington Driver Guide or Oregon Driver Manual for helpful reminders on not slamming your brakes, keeping a light and steady foot on the gas to maintain motion, and steering to control a skid. (Do you remember details like which direction to turn your wheels, and how – or whether – to pump your brakes?) And as always, give yourself extra room and eliminate distractions. Check out the Oregon Driver Manual’s “Dealing with Emergencies” section (pg. 74) for quick troubleshooting tips for situations like brakes failing, tire blowouts, and utility-pole collisions.
Winter is upon us. Check out more tips to keep you and your property safe through the Northwest storm season here.