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Winter Preparedness: Not-so-obvious tips for driving during winter conditions

"No one knows how how to drive when it snows!"

"Don't panic, and slow down."

"Drive below the speed limit."

These are all things we hear when the roads are snowy and/or icy. But did you know taking it slow on the roadways may not be enough? What else can you do to prevent yourself as a driver from getting in an accident?

Here's some not-so-obvious tips you should follow to safely get from A to B:

  • Accelerate and brake SLOWLY
    • We're all guilty of this--have you ever been in a situation where you're at a complete stop and you begin to push your accelerator and your car begins to skid? Or when you are approaching a stop and you begin to skid as you push your brakes? I can't be the only one who has done this. Your car begins to skid because you are not accelerating or decelerating slowly enough.
    • By applying the gas or brakes slowly, this allows your car to regain traction on the road.
  • 8-10 second following distance
    • This goes hand-in-hand with the above tip. If you are too close to the car in front of you, and all a sudden they begin to brake, you're more likely to be in an accident because you didn't give yourself and the car in front of you enough space.
    • Leave approximately 200ft or more between you and the car in front of you. This allows you to have a longer distance if you have to stop.
  • Don't stop if you can avoid it
    • If you are able to slow down enough while also rolling still until a traffic light turns green, do so. But this doesn't mean go full speed towards a red light and hope it turns green. Have your car naturally slow down while approaching a light, and use your brakes if you have to come to a stop.
    • You don't want to come to a complete stop at a stoplight just so it can turn green the second you stop, just to accelerate again (this is how skidding happens). This is why keeping your distance and driving slower is important.
  • Don't speed up or stop going up a hill
    • While using more gas to go up a hill seems like the best idea, it's actually not. This just causes your wheels to spin.
    • Use inertia--a physics term that describes keeping your vehicle in motion, unless another force slows or stops you (i.e. braking, or conditions of the road like a fallen tree). Gain a little more inertia before you begin going up the hill, and inertia will carry you up to the top.
    • Before heading down a hill, you'll need to reduce your speed and go down a hill slowly as possible
  • What to do when you start to skid
    1. Keep your foot off the pedals!
      • Allow yourself to coast for a bit
      • Don't slam the brakes and or accelerate
    2. Begin to counter-steer
      • Turn your steering wheel in the direction the back end of your car is going (in other words, the opposite direction of where the front of your car is trying to go).
      • This should get you out of a skid
  • If you see road clearing equipment, give them space
    • Stay 200ft behind crews working as it is essential for them to have room in order begin plowing or salting the roads.
  • Check the roadways before you head out
    • Your GPS may say it takes x amount of time to arrive at your destination, but that may not be the case, if roads are not salted or if there's an accident.
      • Tune in for Heart of Illinois ABC's Traffic Spy at 6AM and 5PM Monday-Friday and receive live updates on winter road conditions.
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Audrey Leigh

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