Home for the Holidays? Winter Driving Safety

It’s the time of year when many of us travel by car to be with loved ones, and also when the weather turns cold and unpredictable. That combination can create some real problems, so let’s take a quick look at getting there safely over the holidays.

Safety begins long before you leave, starting with making sure your vehicle is equipped for the trip. Prevent mechanical breakdowns with regular maintenance like oil changes and checking for cracked or fraying belts or hoses. When checking tires, make sure the spare is properly inflated also. Yes, it’s probably hard to get to under all the stuff in the trunk, but you don’t want to be stuck with a flat tire and a useless replacement. Make sure you know how to use the jack and change a tire, and top off the windshield fluid also.

Be ready for bad weather or other issues with an emergency kit. You can put this together yourself or purchase a ready-made kit, but you should have a sturdy snow brush and ice scraper, jumper cables, flares, a working flashlight and even an emergency blanket. At least a basic first-aid kit is a must-have at all times, and every vehicle should have a fire extinguisher. For longer trips, bring non-perishable foods like energy bars as well as drinking water.

Other supplies should include a reflective vest in case you have to attempt roadside repairs or walk to get help, and a working mobile phone charger. Speaking of the phone, make sure it has numbers stored for emergency contacts, a towing company or other roadside assistance, and your insurer. If especially heavy weather is predicted, consider carrying a snow shovel and a bag of cat litter in case you need better traction.

If you have issues on the highway, continue to the next exit if at all possible. Better to ruin a tire by driving on a flat than to attempt changing it on the shoulder with traffic passing at highway speeds. If you’re broken down completely, get those flares out to alert other drivers and call for assistance.

Most of all, avoid “get-there-itis.” The holidays only come once a year, and the temptation to tough it out and get behind the wheel regardless of the conditions is strong. Better to be safe and stay home than to be caught out in dangerous conditions.

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