Keep Your Family Safe on Winter Road Trips
(ARA) - If you live in a cold, snowy part of the country, you know that winter is good for many things -- ice skating, sledding, skiing, and drinking hot chocolate by a roaring fire. However, winter is not good for driving. Ice, snow and sleet can make for treacherous road conditions that require nerves of steel, good reflexes and a dose of common sense. Although the basics of winter driving safety don't change much from year to year, it's a good idea to refresh your memory (in case you've forgotten last winter). Here are some tips that will help make winter driving less stressful.
Can Your Car Handle the Weather?
Driving a vehicle you trust and that you are familiar with gives you confidence on the road. Make sure you know how your car handles in slippery driving conditions. For example, if your car has antilock brakes, find an empty parking lot or other safe area and test them out to see what they feel like when you brake suddenly.
If you're looking for a new car, you'll want one that can handle winter weather. Four-wheel or all-wheel drive will give you handling control on slippery roads; airbags and other safety features will give you the security of knowing that if something does happen, your family will be protected. For Ann Mackinnon of Minneapolis, an SUV was the answer. "Minnesota winters can be brutal, but you still have to get to work and shuttle kids around," she says. She bought a Saturn Vue because of its good safety record. "I was drawn to Saturn because of features like the front and rear crumple zones, side impact protection, which is super important to me. There are so many things I like about it -- the head curtain airbags which protect my backseat passengers, anti-lock brakes with traction control, controls over windows and locks and other features that simply give me peace of mind as a driver and a parent." she adds.
A Winter Checklist
If you haven't given your car a winter once over, now is the time to make sure everything is working properly. Check your brakes, windshield wipers, and defroster to make sure they'll perform as needed in bad weather. Make sure your antifreeze and windshield wiper fluids are topped off.
Add some winter-readiness items to your trunk: a heavy duty ice/snow scraper to keep the windshield clear, a shovel and a bag of kitty litter to free yourself from snow banks, and jumper cables. You'll also want to have an emergency kit that includes bottled water, candy bars, a blanket, and a flashlight, just in case.
Before You Leave
Whether you're driving to the grocery store or to visit far away family, respect the weather conditions and use your common sense. Don't take chances with dangerous driving conditions -- wait until they improve to continue your trip.
Be a courteous and safe driver -- clear your car of any accumulated snow, including the roof, so that snow blowing off your car doesn't endanger cars behind you. Make sure your windshield and headlights are clear of all ice and snow for best visibility.
On the Road
Always buckle up, even if you're just going down the street. If traveling locally, leave a few minutes early to give yourself plenty of time -- you don't want to be in a hurry or distracted in bad driving conditions.
Keep a safe distance behind other cars on the road; in winter conditions, that may be more space than you're used to. This gives you time to react to other drivers and maintain control of your car. Take it slow and steady for safety -- no quick accelerations, no sudden braking and no abrupt turns. Rapid movements lead to skids and loss of control. If your car starts to skid on ice or snow, steer the car in the direction that the rear wheels are sliding.
Above all, stay alert and stay calm.
By following your instincts and paying attention to road conditions, you'll arrive at your destination with your nerves and your car intact.
For more information on Saturn vehicles, visit www.Saturn.com.
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