According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, winter begins with the solstice on December 21st and does not end until the commencement of the vernal equinox on March 20th; this leaves three long months of winter driving, with an increased potential for collisions, property damage, and loss of life. What makes winter driving so different from other seasonal driving? In short, the unpredictable weather factor, and the vast number of people on the road, many of whom are neither as experienced nor confident driving in winter conditions. The winter season happens to coincide with the three deadliest driving holidays, two of which fall within the winter months and one at the cusp, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Nearly 39 million motorists were estimated to have traveled more than 50 miles to celebrate this past Thanksgiving holiday. The estimate according to AAA for motorists who drove home for Christmas this past year is expected to have lapsed the Thanksgiving estimate by the millions. The unpredictability of the type of weather one may encounter on a winter drive encompasses everything from blinding sunshine to a nor’easter. By slowing down, and estimating into our winter arrivals a bit more travel time, as well as tripling the driving distance between vehicles, we can all help to avoid a potential car crash. If we accept for argument’s sake that we as motorists in the United States enjoy the freedom of freely traveling, then we must also accept the responsibility for doing so in a safe manner.
Part of winter traveling that is especially different from other seasons is the cost of procrastination and the importance of preparedness. Take for example a typical springtime scenario, you got a flat while parked, and now your car wont start, and you have no idea where you placed those jumper cables. Assuming no other factors, you typically will be able to wait out a jump and tire repair from a local AAA road service assistant, without it impeding your health. Take that same example and place it during a February’s winter storm, and we are talking the difference between a potentially life and death scenario. Now that winter has arrived you may want to ask yourself is my winter survival pack replenished, and or restocked, and ready for the 2014 winter season?
Things to consider in your winter preparedness include are the windshield wipers in working order? Have you replaced your wiper fluid with high-quality winter fluid? Especially helpful for long drives, have you treated your windshield and mirrors to a coating of water-shedding material such as Rain-X? Are your lights in working order? Will other cars in limited visibility be able to see your cars headlights? Are you going to be driving in a place that regularly has significant snowfalls? If so, has your county or state regulated winter tires? Do the tires currently on your vehicle have sufficient tread and air pressure? If there is any major repair that needs to be done to your car, do so before you must drive your car for an extended period, such as a 6-hour drive to visit your family for the holidays. Can you easily access your ice scrapper, booster cables, blanket, warning flares, small snow shovel, gloves, flashlight, and a bag of abrasive material (such as sand salt mixture, or cat litter)? Lastly, if you do need to use your car as a shelter while waiting for AAA or road assistance, do you have everything you need to survive? The main difference between driving during the winter months and any other season is that when you break down, or are involved in a collision, the situation shifts from what can we do while we wait, to can we survive the wait.
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