When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, so you may have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. Many homes will be too cold Ė either due to power failure or because the heating system isnít adequate for the weather. When people use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning will increase significantly.
Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause other serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, although anyone can be affected.
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it. Donít go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.
If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle road conditions.
Driving on Icy Roads
- Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
- Turn on your lights to increase your visibility.
- Keep your lights and windshield clean.
- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
- Donít use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
- Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
- Donít pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and youíre likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
- Donít assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
If your rear wheels skid:
- Take your foot off the accelerator.
- Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If theyíre sliding right, steer right.
- If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
- If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse Ė this is normal.
If your front wheels skid:
- Take you foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but donít try to steer immediately.
- As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in ďdriveĒ or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.