Safe winter driving tips can be helpful for those who live and visit Colorado and are true lovers of the snow and wintry weather that comes with living here. With a long term average of 56.5" inches of snow a year, you need to love the snow to live here.
But one of the side effects of living and playing in Colorado, especially the mountains of Colorado is learning safe driving in all that snow. Serious auto accident injuries resulting from careless winter driving habits can take a long time to recover, both physically and monetarily.
You certainly can't approach driving in the snow the same way you would driving during warm weather months. So, how should your driving in the winter be different?
Read on for some helpful winter driving tips.
5 Winter Driving Tips
Prepare for Winter Driving
If you live in Colorado, you know you should be prepared for winter driving. If you plan to drive in the mountains where the conditions might be even more treacherous, it makes sense to do some things to make sure you are prepared.
It's smart to be prepared for any driving scenario or the possibility of getting stuck. Keep your car stocked with:
- A shovel
- Jumper cables
- Jack and a spare
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable snacks like granola and protein bars
- Extra blankets
Your car will perform better in the snow and get better traction if it is weighed down. If you are traveling through the mountains for leisure, your luggage and gear can act as extra weight. If you don't have much, consider adding some bags of sand to your trunk for extra weight.
Another smart idea is to make sure your car's gas tank is full when you know you'll be traveling in the snow. The full tank of gas is also extra weight for better traction. In addition, if you do happen to get stuck, you have a full tank of gas to run your car and keep you warm until a rescue vehicle can get to you.
Check Your Tires
Your tires are key to how you will travel through snow.
You want to make sure your tires have an appropriate level of tread. If your tires are worn and you don't have much tread, the tires have less ability to grip the road as you move through the wintry conditions. You don't want to wait until spring to buy those tires if you need them.
You also want to be certain your tires are properly inflated. If tires are underinflated, the tread doesn't catch the road surface the way it should and you won't have as much control while driving.
If you know you are regularly going to be driving in snowy conditions, it might make sense to invest in snow tires for the winter months. Snow tires are made to travel through snow more effectively. The treads on the tires are deeper allowing them to better grip while moving through the snow.
Keep Your Driving Smooth
The key to driving in the snow is to drive smoothly so you don't force your car into any sudden movements.
For example, when accelerating, you want to slowly and gently put your foot on the gas so your car starts moving slowly. Hitting the accelerator hard means the tires will start to spin and you will lose control of your car.
The same is true for braking. You want to anticipate when you will need to brake or slow down. Remove your foot from the gas and then very gently start to use the brake.
Back to the tire tread. If your car makes those hard, fast movements, it makes it harder for the tread to grip the road in the snow. Imagine your coffee cup has no lid. Drive so you won't spill your coffee.
Don't Look Out, Instead, Look Ahead and Where You Want to Go
When driving in snow you want to be very mindful to be looking far ahead of where you are going. Driving in wintry conditions means you need to anticipate what is coming up ahead of you.
If you know you are going to need to slow down or make a turn, you want to prepare in advance to prevent having to make quick adjustments. If there is a curve in the road, then you can slow down well in advance.
In the event that you start to slide or skid, you also need to know how to react. Most people's instinctive reaction will be to look in the direction they are sliding. This is exactly what you should not do.
In the event that you start to slide or skid, look instead in the direction you wish to go. This will help you to turn your vehicle and recover from the sliding.
If the front of your car starts to slide, turning in a direction you don't intend, ease off the gas. Most of the time, this will give your car tires enough time to get the traction back and you can get the car back under control.
If the rear of your car starts to slide turning in a direction you don't intend, turn your wheel in the direction that the rear of the car is going. This will help tell your car how to adjust.
Know the Law
The Colorado Department of Transportation will put certain laws into place if there is winter storm weather. It's important to understand these laws.
When traction laws are enacted only vehicles that meet certain standards may travel on roads like I-70 going into the mountains.
Vehicles will need to be 4WD or AWD vehicles and have at least a 3/16” tread depth. Vehicle tires need a mud and snow designation (M+S icon) and 3/16” tread depth. Or winter tires should have the mountain-snowflake icon and 3/16” tread depth.
During severe winter storms, the Colorado Department of Transportation will put into place the Chains Laws. This means that the only vehicles allowed on the road must have chains.
Safe Driving in Colorado Winters
Winters in Colorado are certainly beautiful. It's a playground for winter enthusiasts. Yet, with winter roads comes winter driving.
Use these tips to practice safe driving. If you find yourself in an accident and need legal advice, we can help. Whether you have damages or injury, we have experience in handling insurance companies following an accident.
Contact us today for an appointment to discuss your case.