If you live in an area that is impacted by severe winter weather, it’s vital to plan your commute in a way that keeps you as safe as possible. You can’t prepare for all possibilities, but you can take active steps to ward off the most common challenges. Here are some ways to minimize your risks during your winter commute.
Prepare Your Vehicle
A safe winter commute begins with a well-prepared vehicle. Have your mechanic give your car a once-over and make recommendations. Or if you’re reasonably handy, consider making a few changes yourself:
- Use wiper fluid with antifreeze
- Upgrade to heavy-duty wiper blades
- Switch to snow tires or all-season tires if appropriate for your area
- Change your oil
- Clean and lubricate your car doors
- Maintain your tire pressure
Know Your Route
Learn how the roads you take to work are impacted by snow and ice. Are there areas that aren’t regularly plowed? Does your commute involve bridges that can get especially slippery? Look into alternative routes in advance, so you know which roads to take if conditions are poor.
Practice Your Skills
Practice your winter driving skills during your off hours, when you’re not under pressure to get to work on time. Remember to add stopping distance, accelerate and decelerate more slowly than normal, and steer into skids. Also, know how your individual vehicle performs. Is it prone to fishtailing? Does it overheat? Take both your vehicle and your individual driving skills into account when planning your commute.
Leave Extra Time
Always give yourself extra time to get to work or anywhere else during winter weather. Whether you encounter heavy traffic or slide into a snowbank, you’ll be glad you aren’t running late. And remember, being on time is not worth risking your life. Call in late if you run into difficulty, or take the day off if conditions are especially bad.
Carry an Emergency Kit
Never leave home without a winter survival kit, as even a short commute could easily turn into a protracted and potentially dangerous situation. At a minimum, be sure you have:
- Water and snacks
- Emergency blankets and extra layers of clothing
- Ice scraper
- Kitty litter (for extra traction)
- First aid kit
- Snow shovel
- Reflective triangles
- Portable cell phone charger
A winter commute isn’t always fun. But following the tips above can help you stay safe, even in the most frustrating conditions.
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