Here are some things we can all do behind the wheel towards that goal. I’m just not talking about not driving while impaired (by alcohol, drugs – prescription or recreational, or fatigue). Nor about not wearing your seat belts.
Surely some things do not need repeating.
I’m talking about things you may have been taught but may have forgotten.
Tip 1: Put on those winter tires. If you haven’t done this by now, you’ve probably already been caught out. Better late than never.
Tip 2: Prepare the rest of your car for winter too. Make sure its tune-up schedule has been maintained. Breaking down at the side of the road is never fun and in winter, it could be deadly.
Tip 3: In that vein, carry an emergency kit with you. You can get pre-made kits from your local auto supply store in a variety of price ranges, or make one up yourself. Warm work gloves, extra socks, boots, and other clothing, a “space blanket” (thin and compact, but very warm), emergency warning triangle, flares, flashlight (don’t forget batteries, or get a wind-up unit), some granola bars in case you’re stuck for a while, water in plastic bottles (glass will break if you’re in the cold for too long). And keep your cell phone charged.
Tip 4: Clear the snow off your car. And do it before you drive away; don’t let the wind sweep it clean because the snow may end up on someone else’s windshield. Do all the windows, don’t just cut a wee hole you can peek through. Don’t forget the side-view mirrors and the roof – a mini-avalanche into the windshield of a following car can be more than an unpleasant surprise for its unfortunate driver.
Tip 5: Still with visibility, top up your windshield washer fluid, and carry a back-up supply with you. Especially in slushy weather, you can go through that stuff very quickly.
Tip 6: Don’t idle. As soon as the engine runs smoothly, drive away, gently at first. An engine warms up much more quickly under load than it does when idling. Getting it up to temperature quickly reduces wear and tear, obviously saves precious fuel, and reduces pollution.
Tip 7: Practice. Find a big empty unplowed parking lot, and learn how your car handles poor traction conditions. If your car is fairly new, it probably has stability control and ABS brakes. But the good driver never gets into a situation where (s)he has to rely on that technology. Besides, sliding around is fun…
Tip 8: Speaking of technology, avoid using snooze-and-cruise on wet or snowy roads. Most systems can’t keep up with rapidly changing traction conditions.
Tip 9: Turn on your lights. All of them, not just the Daytime Running Lights. Remember, the driver of the car behind you has to see your car.
Tip 10: Last but not least, SLOW DOWN! Seems obvious, but apparently not, given the behaviour I see on the 401 during every snowstorm. The kinetic energy of your car increases as the square of its speed, so braking is severely compromised, as is handling. Better to get there late than not at all.
Remember: as always, the life you save might be mine…