11 safe driving tips that help prevent accidents


Cars are really smart these days. They tell you when you change lanes, self-park, and some even automatically brake if the road is obstructed. But even with recent safety advancements, driving is still dangerous. Read on to discover what to do in driving emergencies and general sound driving practices. These safe driving tips can keep you and your car out of harm’s way.

1. Accelerate slowly if your tire explodes

When you feel a tire give out, your first reaction is to slam on the brakes. Not only is this a terrible idea if there is traffic behind you, but it could also cause your car to fishtail and lose control. According to Popular Mechanics, accelerate moderately to bring your car under control and then coast to slow down, coming to a stop off the side of the road with your hazard lights on.

2. Test your emergency brake regularly

The emergency brake seems like an unnecessary feature with most automatic transmission equipped cars. But what happens when you’re barreling down the highway and your brakes go spongy? You’re going to want that emergency brake. Your emergency brake works separate from your hydraulic brake system, using steel cables to pull the brake pads tight. Those cables can rust and deteriorate if not used occasionally. So the next time you park, pull on that unnecessary lever between the front seats.

3. What to do if your brakes fail

It’s one of those safe driving tips you hope you never need. And in reality, brakes rarely completely fail. It may feel like they’re gone, but if you really push hard on the brake pedal you should have something left. You can also slightly apply your emergency (or parking) brake. If a true emergency, downshift in a manual and, if an option, do the same on an automatic. You will remain safely in control of your car while slowing down. Slowly migrate to the side of the road with your hazard lights on.

4. Properly adjust side (wing) mirrors

We have all come to accept that there are certain blind spots on every car. Side mirrors just cannot capture everything. But what if I told you, they’re just adjusted inappropriately? To gain a better view, turn those mirrors so your own car is just out of view. Voila! No more cranking your neck before every lane change. And more importantly no blind spots!

5. Keep your headlights on at all times

Many newer cars have daytime running lights. This feature drastically improves your car’s visibility to other drivers and pedestrians. If you do not have running lights and the weather turns cloudy, rainy, or foggy pop on those headlights.

6. No tailgating

Remember that pesky 2-second rule your driving instructor kept reminding you about? Turns out he/she might have actually known a thing or two. Nearly 33% of all crashes are at least partially caused by tailgating and following too closely is illegal in most states. So keep some distance in front of you.

You’re not auditioning for The Fast and the Furious 17 (seriously, they’re still making these?).

7. Check your oil every two weeks (or sooner)

Back when gas station attendants filled the gas tank for you, they also checked your oil. This was not just done as a way to get extra tips. Driving with a low oil level or dirty, cloudy oil is extremely dangerous. Check your oil monthly, at the very least. Wipe your dipstick on a white cloth/rag/paper towel. Note any color other than amber or light brown. This is the most basic preventative maintenance everyone should practice.

8. Assemble a proper emergency kit

Even on short trips around town, an emergency kit can come in handy. Some basic items could save your life, or at the very least some precious time, especially if you live in a harsh climate.
What to pack:

Foam tire sealant | Flashlight | Jumper cables

Blanket | Kitty litter (for getting unstuck in snow/ice)

Industrial strength tape | First-aid kit | Basic tool kit

Reflective traffic triangles (place behind and in front of your vehicle if stopped)

9. Never drive drowsy

Driving might seem like an easy thing to do, but it becomes a bit trickier when you fall asleep. Drowsy drivers are responsible for over 72,000 car crashes and 800 deaths every year. If you find yourself blinking or yawning excessively, or if you cannot remember the last few miles, pull over immediately.

10. Don’t text and drive

We’ve all seen the commercials and ads about tragic outcomes from teens texting while driving. And they’re not just to scare you: texting and driving is a borderline epidemic. Over 40% of teens admit they text while driving. Just put that phone down when driving; it could save your life considering 1 in 4 accidents are caused by texting behind the wheel.

11. Most important safe driving tips: Give yourself ample time

This is one of the most overlooked safe driving tips. We all know that driver, weaving in and out of lanes, slamming on the brakes, riding two feet behind your bumper. That’s just an accident waiting to happen. Relax and let them zoom ahead.
And if you find yourself wanting to save five minutes off your commute by recreating a scene from Smokey and the Bandit, just know it probably won’t end well.

5 apps to help you stop texting while driving

If there are two things that Americans love, it’s hitting the open road in our cars, and texting people on our phones.

These two things don’t mix. In the back of our minds, we know they don’t mix. But for some reason, we just can’t stop texting and driving. Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can be dangerous, and we’re busy texting our entire contact list while barrelling down the road in a few tons of glass and metal like it’s no big deal.

Luckily, the same technology that’s distracting us can be used to help us focus on the road instead of our phones.

The dangers of texting and driving

You’ve probably seen those commercials where someone is driving, and everything is going fine, and then suddenly there’s a car crash accompanied by a jumpscare that wouldn’t be out of place in a Friday the 13th movie, followed by a somber reminder to not text and drive. “Funny” isn’t the right word for it, but it feels so dramatic and out of place that you can’t help but think of it as being over the top.

But texting and driving do have real consequences.

People who text (reading or sending) are up to 23% more likely to get into a car crash than other drivers. In 2013, the National Safety Council estimated that almost 350,000 automobile crashes involved someone texting. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported that you’re six times more likely to get into a car crash if you’re texting than if you’re drunk. It’s become such a problem that 46 states have made texting and driving illegal.

(The states where it’s not illegal? Arizona, Missouri, Montana, and Texas. Be extra careful for on-the-go texters while you’re in those states!)

Of course, texting is only one part of a larger category of distracted driving. That could mean a lot of things, from using your phone to turning around because a kid is crying in the backseat to leaning over trying to find the shopping list you dropped. But as cellphones have become more ubiquitous and have had more and more features added to them, they become more and more of a distraction.

So what do we do? Head to the app store, of course! There are a number of apps that are trying to do what we can’t seem to do ourselves – make us better drivers.

Choose your app

So what apps are out there? More than you might think.

There are a few different methods to keeping you from distracted driving. Some completely block your phone, preventing you from communicating with the outside world. Others make it easier to use your phone – which seems counterintuitive, but easier, in this case, meaning more intuitive interfaces so you don’t have to focus as much on navigating your phone’s screen.

If you’re looking for a way to curb your texting, check out some of these apps.

Drive First
Drive First comes straight from Sprint, and it’s cool that carriers are getting into the no-texting-while-driving game. Your phone automatically locks when you start driving, so no need to start or stop the app, and it automatically replies to texts. But sometimes you need access to things on your phone, right? Drive First lets you set 3 driving apps – like maps or music – so you can get what you need without being tempted to text. You can also set VIP contacts to bypass the block so important people like your husband or boss aren’t blocked every time you get into the car.

DriveMode is different than the other apps on this list because it doesn’t block features – in fact, it makes it easier to use your phone. It implements a “no-look interface” and basically replaces your phone’s interface of small buttons and layers of menus, with voice features and large, easy-to-use buttons. For example, when someone calls, instead of tiny answer or ignore buttons, almost the entire screen becomes an answer button so you can tap anywhere to take the call. It works with navigation apps, music apps, and messaging apps, so you can still use pretty much anything you’d use otherwise, but (theoretically) without needing to look at your phone as much.

You might have heard of Focus if you’re a fan of Note to Self. The episode that featured Focus was…um, focused on “wexting” – walking and texting – but it works just as well for driving. Like DriveMode, Focus doesn’t actually block anything. Instead, it works to train you to not use your phone while you’re driving. When you’re using it, Focus will tell you to pay attention to your driving. And honestly, while it starts off with gentle reminders, it can get kind of aggressive. If you’re not someone who handles confrontation well, you’ll probably learn quickly. You get report cards emailed to you so you can see how you (or someone else, like your kids) did. If you’re looking to form habits instead of just have your phone locked down, consider Focus.

Drive Mode
If you want something that’s a little less intense, consider Drive Mode. (Not to be confused with the above DriveMode. I know.) It doesn’t block anything, but it does prevent your lockscreen from enabling, so no more typing in PINs or swiping patterns, and it automatically switches calls to your speakerphone. It’s pretty simple, but those two changes remove a lot of the distractions you face from your phone.

TextNoMore is interesting because it gives you an incentive to not text and drive (besides, you know, not dying). When you’re about to drive, you start the app and put in your estimated driving time. It’ll shut down notifications – nothing revolutionary about that – but the service is partnered with various retailers to provide coupons if you don’t text. It also shows missing children notifications once the app shuts down, so you can feel like you’re doing good, too. The app itself is a little rough-looking, but it’s an intriguing idea and it’ll be interesting to see if others implement similar features.

Do you use an app to make you a less-distracted driver? Let us know what your favorites are!

Your Teen Is Getting a Drivers License: Now What?

A driver’s license is a much-anticipated landmark for teenagers yearning for freedom. But, with freedom comes responsibility, and the parents of newly minted teen drivers may need to take on their share. What do you need to know when your teen is on the brink of automotive liberty? Here are a few things to think about:

Know the Risks

There’s no getting around it: Driving can be dangerous, especially for teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car accidents result in the injury of hundreds of thousands of teenagers each year in the U.S.—and the risk is highest during the first few months after a teen gets a drivers license.

Speeding, inexperience, distractions and impaired driving are some of the major causes of accidents among teenage drivers. However, even if your son or daughter is responsible and level-headed, new drivers are often so concerned with driving correctly, that they won’t be ready to react to the mistakes that other motorists make on the road. As a result, it’s essential that your son or daughter gets supervised driving experience, which will help him or her acquire the skills needed to become a competent driver. Many states have Graduated Driver Licensing laws, which allow teen drivers to gain experience while they gradually gain full driving privileges.

When you consider these dangers, it’s no wonder that a driver’s license can give concerned parents pause, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Teenage drivers generally show dramatic improvement within their first 1,000 miles or first year of driving, and they continue to improve for the next 4,000 miles after that. You just need to take steps to ensure that you’re setting your son or daughter up for success when they get behind the wheel.

Assess Your Teen’s Ability

Follow your instincts as a parent. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of your teenager driving alone, once the GDL laws permit it, or you think that he needs more practice, then don’t let him drive by himself. Start off by practicing in quiet areas that don’t get much traffic, and when the weather is good. As your teen becomes more skilled, you can start introducing him to different traffic conditions and roadways, as well as nighttime driving and different types of weather. New teen drivers are generally safest when they have adult supervision, and they’re the most at-risk when they’re alone during their first six months behind the wheel. With driving practice, and by setting guidelines, you can help your teen become an excellent driver.

Talk to Your Teen

Even if you’re confident in your child’s abilities, it’s important to realize that teens will sometimes drive differently without parental supervision. As a result, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules with new drivers. Consider guidelines that will minimize distractions, and ones that will help inexperienced drivers avoid risky conditions, for example. If he or she is unable to follow some basic rules for safety, there should be consequences, such as a loss of driving privileges.

In addition to helping teach your teen to drive and setting up rules and consequences, you may also want to talk to your teenager about avoiding some dangerous behaviors, like driving under the influence and distracted driving. Educate your teen on how to drive defensively, and on the importance of controlling road rage or other dangerous emotions behind the wheel.

Be a Good Role Model

One of the best ways to help your teen hone his driving skills is by being a good, responsible driver yourself. Don’t exhibit road rage, be courteous to other drivers and avoid distracted driving. Set an example by showing your teen how good driving behavior helps keep everyone on the road safe. Educating a new driver is also a great opportunity for both of you to review your state’s traffic laws, which should help both of you become better drivers.

Be Prepared

Whether you’re teen is heading out in the family car or in his or her own ride, make sure that the vehicle is in good driving condition, and stock it with gear that could come in handy during an emergency. A cellphone is also an asset in emergencies, but make sure your teenager knows to park somewhere safe before making a call.

Another important factor to consider is car insurance. As soon as your teen gets a learners permit, talk to your insurance agent about your coverage options to make sure your family—and your vehicle—are protected.

Ultimately, your actions will help set the standard for your teen as a new driver. Practice and driving guidelines, as well as open and honest discussion, will help keep your new driver safe on the road.

3 Steps to Overcome Common Driving Fears

Learning how to drive can be intimidating for many new drivers. For teen drivers, the thought of undertaking their required 6 hours of driving instruction can cause nerves to race and stress levels to soar. Fear immediately takes over, causing students to feel anxious. This article addresses some of the most popular anxieties among student drivers, and illustrates ways to alleviate the fear and stress, so you can feel comfortable when you’re behind the wheel.

So, what are the most common types of fears students have when driving for the first time?

  • Cars driving too close
  • Driving at a high speed
  • Making the wrong maneuvers
  • Passing other cars in traffic
  • Driving in tight spaces
  • Driving at night
  • Driving with a stranger (even a licensed driving instructor)

What to Do About Fear of Driving
Realize that no one on the road was a superstar driver overnight. Everyone you see on the road had a starting point. Anyone with a valid drivers license will tell you they’ve had these fears at some point in their driving history, too. It’s completely normal to have anxieties about driving, especially if you’re freshly starting out.

When you embark on anything new, it may take you out of your comfort zone. Somewhere along this new experience, however, is where the fear creeps in. If this resonates with you, let’s take a look to see how you can overcome your fear of driving and build your confidence level when you’re at the wheel.

Step 1 to Overcome Fear of Driving: Take a Deep Breath
Remember: You are not alone. We have all gone through this, or a similar process. Sometimes our brains react to thoughts by over-thinking, causing fears and anxiety levels to go into over-drive. I can tell you from personal experience that driving can be the scariest thing you’ll ever do at a certain stage in your life, but it won’t take long for you to overcome your fears. And driving will soon become one of the most invigorating things you’ve ever done! When you take your first 2 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction with an instructor from Accrediteddriving.com, you are with a trained and licensed professional. Our job as driving instructors is to make sure you feel safe and comfortable during training to get you on your way towards becoming a SMART, safe, and confident driver. So, when you’re in the driver’s seat, take a deep breath. You’ll be okay. Your instructor is there to help make sure of that.

Step 2 to Overcome Fear of Driving: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
We all have comfort zones we like to stay in. Sometimes we have to step out of our zones a little bit to help us grow. You may not feel like you’re ready to drive on the freeway, or ready to take on parallel parking, or to drive on that heavily congested road that people are always talking about. But, you won’t be able to take on that next step if you don’t first try. Then, trust that you’ll get better as you stretch further out of your comfort zone. As driving instructors, we won’t push you to try a driving maneuver you’re really not ready for. We’ll build your skills gradually as we work through your driving lessons, and we’ll save more challenging maneuvers for a future lesson. So, when it comes to driving on that freeway, you will be ready! Safety is our number one concern, and our goal is to make sure our students are well equipped to become safe and SMART drivers. So trust us, and trust yourself, and be ready for growth experiences.

Step 3 to Overcome Fear of Driving: Build Confidence in Yourself
Driving for the first time, or the first few times, can be nerve-racking. But, the only way to overcome this fear and anxiety is to simply go through it. When you’re on the road, cars may drive too close, you will drive in tight spaces, you will drive faster than 25mph, you will have to pass other cars in traffic when you have to change lanes. At some point, you will drive at night. But, by the time these things happen, you will be prepared. Before you even sit in the driver’s seat for your first lesson you will have taken drivers education and it’s your driving instructor’s job to help you learn how to deal with unexpected situations on the road. You may even make the wrong maneuver, but that’s how we learn and become better and safer drivers. As you practice and gain more experience behind-the-wheel, believe me, your confidence level will grow. Driving is a skill, and any skill requires patience, learning aptitude, and practice. With experience comes confidence. Just remember to keep telling yourself, “I got this.”

With time, practice, and a positive mindset, you will overcome your fear of driving. As driving instructors, we are here to help guide you along the process so you can drive with confidence, knowing you have the skills and knowledge that have prepared you for a life of SMART, safe driving.

For more information contact Accredited Driving School at connect@accrediteddriving.com or call (765) 450-4758

Summer Driving Tips

Summer Driving Tips for Teens (and Adults, too)

Summer months, specifically the period between Memorial and Labor Days, are historically the most dangerous for teen drivers, with the highest percentage of motor vehicle collisions. The roads are busy with vacationers, college students home from school and teens as they travel between summer jobs and social activities. We’ve put together 10 tips to help you beat the heat on the road and ensure a safe and fun summer.

Prepare yourself.

  1. Watch your speed. While driving through neighborhoods and backing up, watch out for kids playing and oncoming cars. According to SmartMotorist.com, most accidents are caused by excessive speed or aggressive driver behavior. An advantage of taking it slow? A lower speed means better gas mileage, and more money in your pocket. Rapid acceleration and braking also waste gas.
  2. Don’t rush. Allow extra time for you to get to work or meet up with friends. There are more people on the road and speeding is still the number one cause of accidents, and was found by the NHTSA to be a factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes. Defensive drivers get into fewer accidents and crash prevention programs like In Control in Massachusetts can offer you significant insurance discounts.
  3. Respect trucks. Trucks on the road, especially bigger ones, have significant blind spots to avoid. The general rule is that if you can’t see a truck’s side mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, large trucks and commercial vehicles caused over 5,000 fatal crashes and over 100,000 serious injuries in 2010.
  4. As the weather changes, your driving should, too. Always use headlights in the rain, and allow even more following distance between you and the next car (more than the general 3-second rule).
  5. Focus on the road. Save your calls and texts for after you are safety at your destination – nothing is that important, and if it is, pull over. Eating, putting on makeup and searching for music all add to the horrific statistics for casualties and injuries. Take a few moments to review these facts from the U.S. Government. For example, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field blindfolded. Distracted driving kills.

Prepare your car.

Rising temperatures can be tough on a car’s mechanics so keep your car’s owner manual close by. Keep the list for colder months, as many apply.

  1. Test your car’s battery. Hot weather can strain batteries, so if the vehicle’s battery is more than three years old, test it at a certified car repair shop.
  2. Get an oil change. Look for local Living Social or Groupon deals in your area, which often feature discounts on car services like oil changes.
  3. Tire inspection. Remove snow tires if you have them on (many in NH and Mass. do), and check tire pressure (refer to your owner manual). Ensure that your tires are in good condition as this is critical to the safety of your vehicle; according to the NHTSA, approximately 400 fatalities may be due to tire failures annually. Not sure about your tires? Check out seven steps to determine when your tires need replacing.
  4. Monitor fluid levels. Too little engine coolant/antifreeze can lead to overheating. Replenish brake, power steering and windshield washer fluid while you’re at it. Antifreeze will be your best friend if your car overheats; you can buy it as most gas stations, as well as larger chain stores like Target or Pep Boys.
  5. Keep a basic roadside emergency kit in your car. This should include roadside flares (1-2), jumper cables, a flashlight with fresh batteries, paper towels, extra washer fluid, antifreeze and a small first aid kit.

Finally, some tips for parents of teen drivers. Take advantage of cheaper GPS prices, and buy one for your teen’s car so they won’t need to use their smartphones for directions. Or, if they’re going to use their smartphones, ensure they’ve downloaded an app like the free Mapquest app that gives directions verbally and does not require the driver to look at their phone/map. If your children want to head to a summer concert or beach, offer to drive with them before to practice the route. Planning the trip in advance, having directions or knowing your route will ensure the main focus is on driving. While it might not make perfect, practice builds experience and skills that teen drivers desperately need.

For more information, contact Accredited Driving School at connect@accrediteddriving.com

Tips for New Drivers

Something as quick and simple as putting on your seat belt or getting your windshield cleaned can mean the difference between life and death. Being aware of yourself and other drivers and practicing good road etiquette is equally important. Below are some tips to keep you mindful and safe.

Driving Tips

Simple but Crucial

  • Obey the speed limits. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excess speed is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
  • Always wear your seat belt – and make sure all passengers buckle up, too. Don’t try to fit more people in the car than you have seat belts for them to use.
  • Adjust your car’s head rest to a height behind your head – not your neck – to minimize whiplash in case you’re in an accident.
  • Make sure your windshield is clean. At sunrise and sunset, light reflecting off your dirty windshield can momentarily blind you from seeing what’s going on.
  • Experts now recommend that you hold the steering wheel at either 3 and 9 o’clock on the wheel, or even lower at 4 and 8 o’clock. If you’re in an accident and the airbags go off, you’ll be safer with your hands not flying into your face from the impact of the airbags.

Consider Other Drivers

  • Don’t drive like you own the road. Drive like you own the car.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what other drivers are going to do. The only thing you can assume about another driver with a turn signal on is that they have a turn signal on. He/she might not be turning at all, and just forgot to turn it off.
  • Watch out for aggressive drivers, and try to stay out of their way. They are the cause of a lot of accidents – especially on freeways.
  • Never pull out in front of anyone or swerve into someone else’s lane.

Constant Awareness

  • Make sure your car always has gas in it – don’t ride around with the gauge on empty.
  • If you’re in the country, watch out for deer and other animals.  If you see an animal approaching, slow down and flash your lights repeatedly. Dusk and dawn are particularly bad times for running into animals, so be on the lookout for them.
  • When light turns green, make sure intersection clears before you go.

Merging / Turning  / Passing

  • Avoid making left-hand turns across busy intersections that don’t have turn signals. It takes awhile to learn how to gauge the oncoming traffic. It’s better to go down a block or two until you come to a light, or plan a route that doesn’t need this turn.
  • When there’s an obstruction in your lane, wait for oncoming traffic to clear before you pull around. Just because someone’s blocking your lane doesn’t mean you have the right of way in the next or oncoming lane.
  • Use turn signals to indicate your intention to turn or to change lanes. Make sure to give the cars behind you enough time to react before you take the action. Then make sure to turn your signal off.

Never Pass …

  • If you don’t know if there’s enough space or time.
  • Because you’re playing “passing games” with a friend.
  • If the car you’re trying to pass is going the maximum speed limit.
  • When there is another car passing you.
  • When passing one car doesn’t make a difference.
  • Over a solid yellow line on your side (you need a dotted line to pass).
  • In dangerous weather conditions.
  • When there’s a blind spot in front of you, like a hill or a curve.
  • When there is oncoming traffic in the other lane.
  • If there is road work or construction going on.
  • Through tunnels, on narrow roads, or on bridges.
  • On two lane roads, never pass trucks or other vehicles you can’t see around.

How to Pass with Caution

  • Pass at least ten miles per hour faster than the car you’re going around, but do not exceed the speed limit.
  • Be sure you’ve completely cleared the passed car with enough space before pulling back into your lane.
Winter Driving Tips

Winter Driving Tips: How to Drive in the Snow

In a perfect world, all roads would be dry and untrafficked. But in the real world, drivers face a wide variety of weather conditions, and when snow is added to the mix, the potential for automotive disaster can increase exponentially.

Whether you venture to the ski slopes once in a blue moon or spend six months of every year in snowy climes, we’ve assembled a few crucial points to remember while braving snow-covered roads. Follow these tips, and you might even look forward to cold weather driving.

Slow, Turn, Go!
Dynamically speaking, a car can only do three things: accelerate, turn and brake. While it’s possible to combine those commands from the behind the wheel, vehicles are far easier to control when those actions are performed separately. Let’s say you’re approaching a sharp bend on a snowy road: first, gently apply the brakes in advance of the turn. After taking your foot off the brake, coast through the corner while turning the wheel. Only after you’ve exited the turn and straightened the steering wheel, gently accelerate. “As easy as that sounds intellectually, it’s really hard for most people to put into practice,” says Jessica Guffey, Principal of the Accredited Driving School.

Limit Your Speed, and Think Ahead
Excessive speed is the single biggest reason people lose control in the snow, and slowing down will give you enough wiggle room to correct your course in case your vehicle loses control. “It takes 4 to 10 times longer to stop in ice and snow,” explains Guffey. “Adjust your speed to the conditions,” she adds, “but also remember that going too slow can be just as problematic as going too fast.”

If You Start to Slide…
… don’t panic! A proper response will ensure that car control is regained. If the vehicle oversteers (i.e., the back end swings out), accelerate lightly in order to transfer weight to the rear and increase traction. It may feel counterintuitive to press the gas pedal while a car is sliding, but that action can straighten out the tail-happy yawing motion. Conversely, if the car understeers (i.e., slides forward without turning), straightening the steering and gently touching the brakes will shift more weight over the front wheels and enable the tires to “bite” again. As with all winter driving maneuvers, using a gentle hand and not stabbing the gas, brake or steering wheel is the most effective way to recover from a slide.

Humans tend to target fixate. Couple that with the natural reflex to go where you’re looking, and it’s no wonder so many out-of-control cars head straight into curbs and lampposts. By training yourself to look where you want to go, your hands will follow your eyes and steer away from danger.
Smooth and Easy Wins the Race
Race drivers swear by smoothness when it comes to driving technique, and that practice becomes even more important in wintry conditions. “Pretend you’ve got a cup of coffee on the dashboard,” advises Chuck Good, Principal / Instructor of Accredited Driving School. “If you make sudden or abrupt movements, you’ll go from grip to no grip very quickly.” On the other hand, “[smooth inputs] will help you sense the limits of your tire’s grip before your car starts to slide.”
Know Your Limits and Your Car’s Limits
Becoming familiar with your car’s handling dynamics will prepare you for the unexpected. When the going gets slippery, does your car understeer (plow forward), oversteer (fishtail) or drift sideways? Weight distribution, suspension and drivetrain setups (like front-, rear- or all-wheel drive) affects how your car reacts to adverse conditions. If you can’t attend a driving school and learn about vehicle dynamics from the pros, carefully explore your car’s limits in a safe area like an abandoned parking lot. Once your sense memory develops, you’ll be better prepared to handle a slide when it arrives unannounced.
Don’t Rely Too Much on Technology
Electronic aids like anti-lock brakes and traction control have done wonders for vehicle safety, but icy conditions can render those features useless. Once a tire loses its mechanical grip on a slick surface, all the high-tech gizmos in the world won’t stop that vehicle from spinning out of control. Avoid the inescapable laws of physics by keeping your speed reasonable and maintaining a safe distance from cars and objects around you.
Pick Your Tires Like You’d Pick Your Shoes
“Some shoes are good at everything, but not great at one thing,” says Edmonds. Following that logic, you wouldn’t wear flip-flops in the rain—and likewise, you shouldn’t drive through winter snow on summer tires. Edmonds advises looking for the international symbol for winter tires, which is a snowflake on a mountain. A number of winter tire varieties exist; snowbelt states call for dedicated winter rubber which is referred to as a “studless ice and snow tire,” featuring more aggressive tread and deeper blocks. In regions where snow falls more occasionally, you might opt for so-called performance winter tires, which offer better grip under dry conditions.
Keep Your Car Maintained
A reliably running car can help avoid a world of complications in inclement weather. Make sure your tire pressure hasn’t dipped with the drop in ambient temperature, and your vehicle will be easier to control as a result. Install winter wiper blades in order to maximize visibility, and test your battery to make sure it can handle the challenges of cold weather cranking. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.