With family gatherings, special events, and other holiday celebrations, you’ll probably spend plenty of time driving this holiday season. A little preparation can help to keep yourself and your family safe while on the road this winter, so keep these tips in mind so you can have an enjoyable time while traveling for the holidays.
Winterize Your Vehicle
To keep yourself safe on the road, take time to winterize your vehicle or RV. If you’ll be taking your RV on a holiday trip, prepare it for freezing temperatures by covering exterior hoses and wrapping your water hose in aluminum foil and heat wrap. You can also install a heat lamp in your water compartment to keep it warmer during the winter.
Winterizing your car can also keep it safer on the road. Have snow tires put on and maintain your tire pressure as temperatures fluctuate. During the winter, keep your gas tank at least half full and always keep your washer fluid full, since you never know when you’ll hit bad weather. It’s also important to install winter wipers that are ready for the increased workload they’ll see in snowy and icy conditions. Have your battery checked and replace it if it’s low, since lower temperatures mean your battery needs to put out more power to start your car.
Driving defensively is one of the most important driving safety tips that you can remember and put into action. Always anticipate that other drivers are going to make a mistake, and never rely on anyone else to keep you safe. When you adopt a defensive driving approach, you become solely responsible for your safety, and may be able to avoid accidents by anticipating and being aware of what other drivers are doing.
To be most effective in defensive driving, you need to be constantly alert and paying attention. That means putting down distractions like your phone and focusing on the road. Alcohol slows your reaction times, leaving you less able to anticipate and avoid issues that can occur on the road. Even if you’re below the legal blood alcohol limit, it’s best to not drive at all if you’ve been drinking, so plan ahead and take a taxi home or have a designated driver ready if you’ll be drinking at a holiday event.
A defensive driving approach doesn’t just keep you safe — it can be an important part of teaching your teen to drive, too. If you always drive defensively, your child will grow up seeing that driving approach. When your teen is learning to drive, you can teach them your defensive driving methods and help to make them safer on the road, too.
Learn How to Regain Control of a Vehicle
Winter weather makes it increasingly difficult to maintain control of your vehicle while driving. If you ever find yourself in a skid, on ice, or otherwise without control, knowing how to regain control can potentially help you to avoid an accident.
If you lose control while driving, don’t panic and instead focus on what you can do to correct the issue. It’s instinctive to try to push down on the brake as hard as possible in response, but this can make the issue worse. Don’t accelerate, either, which will only increase the chance that you’ll end up in an accident.
Instead, slowly steer into the same direction that your car is sliding, while pumping or tapping on the brakes. Do this gently, and avoid pulling the wheel away from the skid, since oversteering can prompt the car to skid in the other direction, or to spin out on the icy road.
It’s also possible to lose control of your vehicle if the brakes go out. Regular maintenance can help to prevent this issue, but if you ever find yourself without brakes, apply your car’s emergency brake to slow the vehicle down. If your car has a manual transmission, you can also downshift to slow it down.
Follow Road Trip Safety Tips
Be sure to also follow road trip safety tips during the winter. Get plenty of rest the night before your trip and break up a long drive into segments with plenty of rest in between. Try to take a break every two hours or 100 miles to avoid “highway hypnosis,” the situation where you may zone out while driving so that you don’t recommend a stretch of the trip.
To keep yourself attentive, try to shift around in your seat or listen to music. Ideally, split the driving with someone else so that you can each take a rest and return to the wheel alert.
Be Prepared for Winter Emergencies
It’s also important to always be prepared for winter emergencies that might occur while on the road. You might be a cautious driver and avoid going out in bad weather, but a vehicle breakdown, unexpected storm, or car accident can quickly change the situation. If you have to wait in the cold for any amount of time, you’ll need some supplies to keep you safe.
Create an emergency kit to keep in your car. Stock it with everything that you might need to call for and wait for help, including an emergency blanket, a spare pair of shoes or boots, food, water, extra gloves, hand warmers, and a flashlight. Extra batteries and a cell phone charger can also be helpful.
The better prepared you are, the less the chance that you’ll encounter an emergency while driving this holiday season. Stay safe, enjoy your holidays, and have a good trip!
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