Winter Driving Safety Tips for Michigan Residents

According to NOAA, the state of Michigan is forecast to be at the heart of an active storm track this winter, which likely means we will see more snow and winter precipitation than normal. Some of us love the snow and cold temperatures, others could do without it. Either way, snow, sleet, ice, or even rain can make driving treacherous putting our safety and the safety of other motorists at risk. How can you make navigating the roadways safer and less stressful this coming winter? We have a few tips to share.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests getting your car serviced before you begin traveling in winter months, and knowing your vehicle. For instance, it’s important to make sure your car has been tuned up and that it’s been thoroughly checked for any potential problems such as worn out hoses, leaking fluids, etc. You may already know how your vehicle handles snow or slick driving conditions, but if you don’t, practice in these conditions in an area that’s isolated where you can do so safely. It’s important to know how stable your car is in icy conditions, how/when to apply or not apply brakes, how tires perform, etc.

From the battery to windshield fluid, tires, lights, and the cooling system, make sure everything is in good working order. The last thing you want when it’s 25 degrees and there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground is a dead battery! This brings us to the next point . . .

Stock your vehicle with necessities! Even when you’re well-prepared the unexpected can happen, and you don’t want to face time on the side of the road without a few essential supplies. Be sure to stock your vehicle with blankets, water, snacks, jumper cables, a good flashlight, kitty litter or sand to help if you get stuck, an ice scraper and snow shovel. Don’t to bring along your cell phone along with its charger so you can alert someone if you run into problems.

Tips When You’re on the Road

Staying alert and focused is critical when driving on snow covered or icy roads in Michigan. It’s also important to avoid all distractions, whether eating or talking/texting on your cell phone. Pay close attention not only to your own driving, but other motorists around you. Stick to the speed limit or even slower, and NEVER under any circumstances drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs as this is a recipe for disaster. Alcohol/drugs impair your motor skills, judgment, and perception – don’t do it.

When it comes to driving, give yourself ample time to get to your destination – driving slowly is critical to avoid sliding, skidding off the road, or plowing into a vehicle in front of you if it should brake. Also know whether or not your vehicle has an antilock brake system as this affects how you brake. Vehicles that aren’t equipped with antilock brakes may lock up, so gently pump the brakes if you feel the wheels starting to lock up. In most cases if your vehicle begins sliding, it’s best go easy on the brakes and turn into the slide instead of trying to steer in the opposite direction.

In Case of an Emergency

Run your vehicle only long enough to warm up – never run it continuously, especially with the windows up which could result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Use bright markers on the windows or antenna to alert others of your situation, and never trek off to try to find help – stay with your vehicle.

If the winter weather predictions for Michigan do prove to be true, keep these tips in mind. Most of all have a plan, be prepared, drive slowly, and focus all of your attention on the road ahead. Stay safe this winter!

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