There is nothing quite as beautiful as a snowy winter in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, for drivers who aren’t properly prepared, it can also be very dangerous. It is important to take some time to prepare your vehicle for winter and brush up on safe driving tips. Knowing how to drive near snow plows, preparing for accidents and knowing what to do in the event of an accident can ultimately save your life.
Winterizing Your Vehicle
You should get started by making sure you prepare your vehicle for winter. Having reliable transportation is important any time of year, but particularly so in the snow and ice. Basic vehicle maintenance should be adhered to year round to increase fuel economy and safety. Winterizing your vehicle should be an annual event so you will be prepared for any event while traveling in the winter months.
Get a full check of your vehicle, including brakes, belts, fluid levels, wiper blades, snow tires, defroster, battery, lights and antifreeze. Keep your gas tank full – don’t ever let it get below a half a tank in the winter. A full tank will help you be prepared in the event of an emergency and will also minimize condensation within the tank when temperatures drop. Have an emergency kit at your disposal including a fully-charged cell phone, blankets, emergency gear, flares, a small shovel for digging out, jumper cables, a town change and a bag of sand for tire traction on icy roads. For long trips, make sure to have heavy boots, an extra change of warm clothing, non-perishable foods and bottled water.
Safe Driving Tips for Winter
One of the biggest mistakes that drivers tend to make when driving during winter in Massachusetts is to try and out-drive the weather conditions. The posted speed limits are intended for dry pavement, so adjust your speed according to the snow, freezing rain or wind as it occurs. Before you leave on a trip, find out about current road conditions by calling 511 from your cell phone.
Be careful when braking on slippery roads. Brake early, keeping space between you and the vehicle ahead of you for extra stopping room. Remember to be extra careful when crossing bridges, as bridge decks will freeze way before the roads will. Exit ramps can also be more slippery than highways because they receive less de-icing than the roads. Make sure to drive with your headlights on, even in the daylight, particularly when it is snowing or around slippery curves. Before heading out, make sure your vehicle is completely cleared of snow and frost. The windows, the lights, the roof, the hood, turn signals – make sure it is all clear.
Avoid using cruise control during the winter months. Even a slight touch of your brakes, which is what is needed to deactivate this feature, can make you lose control and spin out. Above all don’t get overconfident in your driving skills. Even if you are driving a well-designed 4×4 vehicle or have many years driving during the winter in Massachusetts, accidents can still happen if you aren’t cautious.
Tips for Driving Near Plows
Snow plows can be extremely dangerous to drivers that aren’t sure how to drive around them. While a plow will move slowly down the road, you are better off staying behind than trying to pass, because the road conditions ahead are usually much worse than they are after the plow makes its way through. Keep a safe distance behind snow plows, approximately 10-12 feet or more, to avoid accidents.
Some plows also have an extension off the side of their trucks. It is important to watch out for these extensions if you do decide to pass. Allow yourself lots of extra room when passing if you must. Also give yourself extra room if you see a snow plow approaching on a roadway. Move as far away from the center line of the road as possible to avoid blowing snow and the blade of the plow. Use your lights so you can better see the truck and be seen by the truck.
Emergency Tips for Winter Drivers
If you do get stranded for some reason in the winter, call 911 or dial the operator to give your location, advise emergency crews of your physical condition and describe your trouble. Follow any instructions you are given. Most operators will usually tell you to stay where you are and to wait for assistance. This can be difficult, as our instinct is usually to get out of a situation, but in cold temperatures you are usually better off in your vehicle.
Do not run your engine unless you are sure that there isn’t any snow or other objects lodged in the exhaust pipe. If the pipe is free from obstruction and you need to run the engine for heat, only turn it on for 10-minute intervals. Only use the interior lights when the engine is running to avoid wearing out the battery. Above all, remain calm. The storm will be over soon and you will be rescued.
For more winter driving tips and ideas for winterizing your vehicle, or for questions about your auto insurance policy, contact your Southeastern Insurance agent. With over 30 years of experience servicing customers all over the New England area, Southeastern Insurance can help you with all your auto insurance, home insurance and life insurance needs.