I have seen multiple car accidents, some single and some multiple vehicle, within the past couple of days. The temperatures have dropped and we’ve had a light dusting of snow. For Alaskans this means that we’ve entered the time of year when we have to modify our cars and driving style. Gone are the long days and dry (except when it is raining) roads. To prepare for winter here are some tips that will come in handy:
- Ensure your car is properly maintained. Regular maintenance will help prevent breakdowns and save you money. Oil changes, fluid changes, tire rotations, etc. are all part of preparing for winter.
- Have your brakes and suspension inspected on your next maintenance visit. Properly functioning brakes reduce stopping times and a suspension in working order makes sure your car is in contact with the road as much as possible.
- I personally recommend a separate set of tires for winter and summer driving. Winter tires can be purchased for not much more than a set of all season tires and expand the time you can keep those tires. For those who do not want to use a studded winter tire, there are other studless options like the Bridgestone Blizzak. Always run matching tires for the best traction. Do not under any circumstance run winter tires only on the front tires on a front wheel drive vehicle. It will cause the back end of the vehicle to slide. Same goes if you only purchase new all season tires in pairs only. New tires go on the rear.
(www.tirerack.com has lots of FAQ about tires or your local tire shop can answer them as well.)
- Change out wiper blades and headlights. These items require changing at least once a year.
- A block heater is a great way to increase the warm up of your car. Newer cars with their advanced systems do not require the 20 minute warm up. They actually warm up much faster when driving. 2-3 minutes is all that is needed, especially if you use a block heater.
- Give yourself plenty of time to make it to your destination. In reality there is no way to be in a hurry while driving on our roads.
- Use common courtesy for the safest driving. Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you (i.e. do not tailgate, if you’re being tailgated, do not slam on your brakes), use your proper turn signals, do not make sudden lane changes, give yourself plenty of time to slow down, and for the person in front of you driving 18 MPH practice some patience. They are driving at a pace comfortable for them. When it is safe you can go around them.
- Know what your driving. Is is 4 wheel drive? All wheel drive? Front wheel drive? Rear wheel drive? Each one handles differently. Also does the car have traction control or a stability system. Any new car will, but older ones will not. Also a car with ABS does not require the brakes to be pumped, on the other hand a car without it will require to be pumped.
- Seat belts save lives! Make sure you and your passengers wear one before you put the car in drive.
- It is also a good time to ensure you have updated insurance, that there is enough of it and that you have uninsured motorist. This can save you a lot of time, money and hassle if you do get into an accident.
- Texting and driving is illegal. Talking on your cell phone can be dangerous. Pull over if you need to talk! There are also many hands free devices available- all of which cost a lot less than an accident. It will make other drivers and state representative Les Gara happy.
Be careful out there. If you use commonsense and follow safety measures like those I’ve listed, you will make it through winter. Trust me. Some accidents just happen and when they do stay calm. You and your car will get through it with these tips!