Winter driving can suck, especially here on the backwoods roads without cell service. This is also true in late April and Early May when Mother Nature gives us one "here, hold my beer, watch this" moment. The freezing temperatures and snow can make it more difficult to navigate the roads safely. However, with some preparation and foresight, hazards that come with driving in these conditions can be avoided. Here are some basic guidelines that drivers can use to become better prepared for winter driving.
Kick Your Tires
First, it is essential to ensure that your vehicle is in good condition before hitting the road. Do you go on foot with shitty boots? I have, and my feet did not forgive me. Ever go fishing in a rickety boat? Yup, but only once. Drivers should take the time to inspect their cars, trucks, or SUVs, including tires, brakes, headlights, oil and transmission fluid, windshield wipers, and defrosters. Carry an extra Jug of washer fluid (aka wiper juice), and an extra jerry can of gas to be sure. By keeping the vehicle well-maintained, drivers will reduce the chances of mechanical breakdowns or accidents when driving in wintry conditions.
Don't Drive Me Crazy
Secondly, drivers should adjust their driving techniques to match the conditions on the road during winter. For instance, drivers should allow extra time to reach their destination, reduce speed, and keep a safe distance from other vehicles. Motorists should also avoid sudden stops or changes in direction, as these can lead to skids and accidents. Also, keep in mind that four-wheel-drive does not mean four-wheel-stopping power.
Thirdly, before embarking on a drive, drivers should plan their trip carefully. This includes checking the weather reports and road conditions in the area. They should map their route (or program their GPS) in advance, considering any road closures, construction, or traffic congestion. On the backroads, you may have options for alternative routes, but on the pavement or major highways not so much.
Fourthly, drivers should always carry an emergency kit when driving in wintry conditions. Some of the essential items that motorists should have in their emergency kit include a shovel, ice scraper/brush, sand, or cat litter for traction (the non-clumping kind), jumper cables, flashlights, blankets, and extra clothing. By packing an emergency toolkit, drivers can be better prepared for any unforeseen situations that may arise while on the road not just for themselves, but also if they find someone else in trouble.
Finally, and especially here in the Northwest Boreal Forest. You should always have your bushcraft bag with you. A major breakdown that cannot be repaired or getting stuck and being unable to work your way out for hours will require some basic survival necessities. You’re better off building a fire to stay warm rather than running your engine. The exhaust can build up dangerous levels of carbon monoxide if you get snowed in. If nothing else goes right, at least you can be warm and dry with a hot beverage and a snack while you consider your options.
In conclusion, winter driving requires planning and preparation. By ensuring that their vehicle is properly maintained, not driving like a nut bar, planning their route, having an emergency kit, and preparing for worst-case scenarios, drivers can reduce the risks and hazards associated with winter driving. These strategies will help motorists arrive at their destination safely, even in the most challenging winter conditions.