Winter weather creates some of the most dangerous driving conditions. As a resident of Montana, snow and ice are guaranteed. If you are new to Montana or a new driver, it is imperative to know how to prepare your vehicle and yourself for winter driving conditions. Otherwise, you could end up in a very dangerous situation – such as tail-spinning on ice or stuck in a snowbank on the side of the road. If you do not feel prepared to drive on snow or ice, stay home. If you have to drive, do so with the utmost safety to avoid a car accident.
Your ability to safely navigate through winter weather conditions depends largely on the state of your vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is winter-weather prepared before going out on the road. A poorly maintained vehicle is a recipe for disaster during a snowstorm or in icy conditions. If you do not feel comfortable inspecting and maintaining your vehicle yourself, take it to a professional before a road trip.
Once your vehicle is ready for winter weather, keep it well-maintained as time passes. Bring it in regularly for oil changes, tire inspections and to top off your fluids. A poorly maintained vehicle is extremely dangerous in winter. Low tread on your tires, for example, can increase your risk of sliding on ice.
It is not enough to prepare your car for the cold weather. If you are not used to driving in snowy or icy conditions, learn a few basic safety tips. Only drive in snowy conditions if you must. Avoid taking unnecessary risks by staying home in bad weather whenever possible. If you must drive, go slowly. Reducing your speed is the number one way to increase your safety while driving in snow, sleet or ice. Accelerate slowly and avoid jamming your foot down on the brakes. Do everything slowly, safely and in control.
Increase your following distance to avoid sliding on ice and hitting the vehicle in front of you. Keep your eyes on the road 100% of the time in case the vehicle in front of you unexpectedly hits its brakes or starts to slide out of control. Leave yourself plenty of room to come to a stop and avoid an accident. If you hit a patch of ice, stay calm. Remove your foot from the gas pedal but do not hit the brakes. Gently keep your wheel straight, unless you start to spin. If you start to spin, guide your wheel in the direction you are spinning. Never jerk your steering wheel if you strike ice, as this could make you lose control of your car. If you get into an accident, get out of harm’s way and call 911.