Recently, police in British Columbia pulled over a man who was not speeding, not exhibiting signs of intoxication, and obeying all traffic laws. Why was he formally escorted to the shoulder? His entire car—save a small tea-cup-sized circle on his windshield—was completely covered in ice and snow. If you’re looking at a picture, it’s a little funny. If you’re driving next to him, it’s not.
Winter poses all sorts of dangers (and apparently brings out the reckless drivers). Below are a few winter do’s and don’ts to keep you—and everyone around you—safe this season.
The Don’ts of Winter Driving
Unless you were a sailor in the 1700s on a man-of-war, there’s no reason to try to view the entire ocean through a tiny porthole, yet this is the scenario we create when we try to drive down the highway using only the porthole window cleared by the defroster after twenty minutes. This is certainly a don’t. You should wait for your entire window to clear before driving, as well as your side mirrors and side windows. Here are a few more winter don’ts:
- Don’t drive frustrated or fatigued. Sure, the holidays are warm and bright, but that doesn’t always cut out the stress, nor does it give you back those hours of sleep you spent shopping or wassailing. If you’re tired or feeling the push from holiday pressure, wait to drive or call a ride.
- Don’t start your car in a closed garage. This leads to monoxide poisoning, which leads to death. Please don’t think this is too obvious to mention. Many people who “just want to get the car warm for a few minutes” before venturing into the winter holocaust never venture anywhere again. It’s tragic, but completely avoidable. First, open your garage door, then back out. This alone will warm up your car!
- Don’t stop if you don’t need to. Remember that guy who said, “an object in motion tends to stay in motion”? Who was that—Isaac Newton? Fig Newton? Whoever he was, he said it right, and it comes back to us from high school physics class in all too real a way on winter roads. Never stop on a hill, and try to brake at lights in enough time to keep your car moving slightly forward until the light changes. This is because it is difficult to get a car rolling again on slick winter roads, and this can cause accidents and pile-ups since people will then have to brake quickly (risking spin out in icy conditions) to avoid you as you try to get the car moving again.
- Don’t accelerate and decelerate quickly. Sudden starts and stops will cause handling problems, especially in ice and snow, as you know. Maintain a consistent speed for best traction.
- Don’t use cruise control. While we do recommend maintaining consistent speed, icy roads are no place to use cruise control because they remove your ability to respond to hazardous road conditions. When you slide on ice, your car will carry its speed into and out of your slide, and that could spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.
The Do’s of Winter Driving
Enough of the negative. We get that there’s a lot of stuff you shouldn’t do, but what about the stuff you should? Here are some winter do’s.
- Do keep de-icer or an ice scraper in your car, along with an emergency medical kit, warm clothes (hat, gloves, jacket), a blanket, a charged cell phone, and charger.
- Do keep your gas tank at least half filled. If you’re stuck in the ice, you will need gas to get unstuck and to run your heater until help comes!
- Do winterize your car before winter weather hits, and get your car inspected to determine needed repairs and replacements. Make sure your tires are dressed for the season!
- Do count your blessings daily. This will combat the stress, fatigue, and chill of those long, dark winter drives!
Now, get out there and make some holiday memories with family and friends with confidence that you can keep them safe on the drive!
- Published in Driving Conditions
Do something long enough, and it becomes a habit. Some are innocuous enough but others, not so much. We all have patterns that we fall into that on the surface seem harmless enough. The habitual coffee drinker won’t even cop to having a habit, but it’s better not to cross him until he’s had his first cup. It may be that you have picked up some harmful driving habits that may hurt you in the long run and you won’t even recognize that the habit was the cause of your troubles.
Being born of repetitive processes, habits come naturally to drivers. After all, there are few things more repetitive than getting behind the wheel day after day. Unfortunately, some repetitive behaviors can slowly and surely damage or car. Check this list to see if breaking a habit could keep your car from breaking your bank account with a preventable breakdown.
Do You Have Harmful Driving Habits Hurting Your Car?
Check out the list of potentially harmful habits below. Is there one you could break now to save yourself money in the future?
Running on Empty
It’s almost a game for some to try to get every last mile out of a tank of gas. As a broke college student, I considered it a win the day I literally coasted to a stop at the gas pump. Although it was great to regale my friends with the tale of my good fortune and feat of daring do, it turns out I was probably harming my engine.
Running your car on fumes requires the fuel pump to drain every last drop of gas from the tank. If there are any sediments at the bottom of the tank (and there probably are), they will get sucked into your engine. Over time, the little pieces of this and that can do big damage. It’s best never to run under about a quarter tank.
What Warning Light?
Warning lights are not decorations on your dashboard. It used to be that cars communicated with their drivers by way of odd sounds or the smell of smoke. Today’s sophisticated computerized engines can alert you to a problem before it’s a problem. If a new symbol appears on your dash, dealing with the issue before it has the chance to get out of hand.
Ignoring the Odometer
Auto manufacturers know how long their components are designed to last. Drivers who ignore the odometer and skip routine maintenance put themselves at risk. Failure to replace a relatively inexpensive part at the scheduled time can come back to haunt you at a later date.
Habits like the ones above can hurt a car passively but hold on to the next ones and it’s like hurting your car on purpose.
Watch Your Hands
If your car has an automatic transmission, don’t rest your hand on the gearshift. Constant pressure from the weight of your hand can damage the control rod at the base of the gearshift and wear away at the gears themselves.
One Foot at a Time
For cars with manual transmission, it is important that a driver not rest their foot on the clutch. Constant pressure here can cause unnecessary wear to components and lead to expensive repair.
If your car only has two pedals, use them one at a time as well. Worn brakes endanger not just your financial safety but your physical safety as well.
Ignoring that Other Brake
Skipping the parking brake shifts the responsibility of keeping your car in place to the transmission. Undue stress causes premature wear and transmissions ain’t cheap.
If you have any of these driving habits, we didn’t make this list to beat you up. We’re not looking for a confession, we’re just sure you like to keep your money in your pocket as much as we do.
- Published in Driving
For any interpersonal encounter to be successful, good communication must be present. Proper use of tone, symbols, expression and both verbal and body language can keep things flowing smoothly, and this is just as true on the roadway as it is in the bedroom or boardroom. Good driver communication can let you save your superior evasive action driving skills for another day.
Broadcasting from the Driver’s Seat
Communicating well from behind the wheel can prevent you from meeting other drivers by accident. While you are driving, you must do everything you can to communicate your intentions to other drivers. Modern automobiles come equipped with many features to make the task easy so make sure to take advantage of them.
Turn signals – A change in the direction of travel by a nearby car is a crucial piece of information for a driver to have so, for crying out loud, use your blinker! I used to think that turn signals were optional equipment on luxury cars as so few Lexus, Mercedes and Cadillac drivers use them. Just let me know where you are going. I’ll be happy to get the heck out of your way.
Brake lights – Unlike turn signals, these babies work automatically letting drivers behind on that you are slowing down. Unfortunately, brakes are the only way to reduce the car’s speed. The driver of a car with standard transmission may gear down, so you will want to be careful driving behind anyone. This is particularly the case at close range or in stop and go traffic.
Backup lights – This is another communiqué issued by the car itself letting those behind you know that you are backing up. However, it is up to you to give those who are sharing the road with the opportunity to see them. If you are preparing to back into a driveway or parking space, shift into reverse and hold a beat before you start your maneuver. This is definitely important when parallel parking. Without a little warning, the car behind you may presume that you are going to continue down the road and will pull in close behind, preventing you from pulling into the space.
Hazard lights – you are experiencing difficulty with your car, be sure to activate your hazard lights. That way other drivers can adjust and pulled around you instead of pulling in behind you waiting for you to move.
Horn – Carmakers should really work on this one. Horns could be so much more expressive. There should be separate honks for “Come on over,” “No, after you,” and “Watch out, you moron!” Until the car companies get this right, the horn should probably be saved for times when a collision appears imminent. Otherwise, other drivers could mistake your honk of greeting as an act of aggression and respond in kind.
There is one last piece of communication equipment remaining, but it is standard on the driver and not the car. I’m talking about the hands. Hands can be used to invite another driver to pull in front of you in traffic or to take your turn at the four way stop. Hands can be used wave a thank you to another driver who has extended you a courtesy. However you choose to use your hands to communicate with others you are sharing the road with, bear one thing in mind. Communication via hand is most effective when all the fingers are used.
- Published in Driver
For many people, the worst part of a Monday morning is not found in starting a new work week but in the getting there. Morning drive time is never fun. The going is slow with fits and starts, and the roadway is filled with bad drivers hoping to shave a minute or two off of their drive so the boss won’t know they overslept. Driving conditions like these are the perfect recipe for elevating blood pressure and shortening tempers. Even if you love your job, it’s difficult to be productive if you arrive there stressed and things become markedly worse if you are not crazy about your 9-to-5 to begin with. It’s important both for your mental and physical health to find ways to avoid driving stress. It’s hard to have a productive workday if you arrive in a bad mood. It’s even harder to get anything done if you don’t arrive at all because you’ve been in an accident.
While it may have never been the case in your car, there are drivers who, believe it or not, actually enjoy their commute. Here are some tips to help you join them in daily accomplishing the impossible.
Crank the Tunes
It is no mystery that the right soundtrack can create a positive frame of mind. Unfortunately, drive-time commercial radio is so heavily punctuated with ads and on-air personality comedy bits that it’s hard to get your groove on. Help elevate your mood by putting together a playlist of favorites on your smartphone or other listening device.
Think about You
A congested roadway means an increased chance that you will be sharing the road with a higher concentration of idiots. It is easy to sit in criticism of these other drivers and the ridiculous decisions they make. Getting worked up over the mistakes made by those you are sharing the road with won’t add to the enjoyment of your trip. Shift your focus away from the “other guy” and, once you are sure you are not adding to the problem, take the time to focus on things that make you happy.
Play Nicely with Others
Few things are more stressful than sharing the highway with another driver who thinks he owns the road. Make sure that you are generous with the space around you so that others won’t perceive you as “that guy.”
Keep Calm and Drive on
If you begin to interpret every driving mistake around you as an act of aggression your stress level will undoubtedly rise. Your breathing will become more shallow, and your heart rate will start to increase. This is not the type of cardio workout that your doctor has in mind for you. If you feel your level of irritation rising, compensate for it by taking slow and deep breaths. As soon as appropriate oxygen levels return to your brain, you will notice that your stress will begin to dissipate. Try it. You’ll be surprised what a bit of focus breathing can do for your state of mind and for your morning commute as a whole.
If you are driving with the added anxiety of a traffic ticket or because you are paying too much to keep your car insured, check out the defensive driving and traffic school courses available here on our site, all designed to make that stress melt away.
- Published in Driving