Year Round Driving and Vehicle Maintenance Tips
by Steve Dearborn
Our lives are busy, and our vehicles help us stay on the go, regardless of the season or weather. How we maintain and drive our cars year round has a direct impact on our chances of being involved in an accident. Of course, there are behaviors that should be avoided regardless of the weather, such as distracted driving. As an example, the common practice of texting while driving makes it 23 times more likely that you will get into an accident. When you add inclement weather to the formula, the odds are even greater. But, there are also specific modifications that should be made to your driving habits in inclement weather. Here are a few insights into driving in different seasons, as well as a quick look at maintaining your vehicle year round.
Speed and Distance in the Rainy Spring
Many drivers view rain as nothing more than an inconvenience, and continue to travel at the same speeds and maintain the same distance between vehicles as they do in dry weather. That is a mistake. According to AAA, when roads are covered with as little as 1/12Ē of water, tires have to work overtime, moving a full gallon of water out of the way every second in order to keep the tires on the road. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that about 46% of all weather-related accidents occur because of rain. On average, about 1.2 million accidents happen every year in the United States because of this seemingly nonthreatening form of precipitation. So, when it rains, slow down, and, at a minimum, you should double the distance you normally maintain between your car and other vehicles.
Maneuvering Through Winter Snow and Ice
In all inclement weather, speed should be reduced and distance should be increased. By how much will depend on the weather. When it rains, distance should be at least doubled, but in snow and ice, distance should be a minimum of ten seconds between you and other cars.
When you must drive in the snow, accelerate and decelerate more slowly and deliberately than you usually do. This simple action will help prevent you from skidding and losing control of your vehicle. If you do end up in a front tire skid, do not fight it. Instead, release the accelerator slowly, and allow the car to slow down while leaving your hands in place.
Of course, upkeep of your vehicle is crucial year round. The change in seasons is a good reminder to give your vehicle a once over to ensure that itís ready to face the elements, whether it will be heat, rain, ice, or snow. Good tires, brakes, and windshield wipers will go far in helping prevent accidents.
- Tires: Regardless of whether your car is a 4WD, FWD, or RWD, it makes no difference if your tires arenít gripping the road. When choosing tires for winter driving, buy true winter tires (all-season compounds tend to harden in cold temperatures), and look for good gripping.
- Brakes: Just as with your tires, brake maintenance is critical to the performance of your car. Have your brakes inspected before hazardous road conditions hit. The last thing you need is to rear end someone because your brakes failed.
- Wiper Blades: Often ignored until the spring rain or winter snow, wiper blades are crucial for year round safety. Check the integrity of the blades by lifting up the wiper blade arm and feeling the edge of the blade. Check for chipped or rigid rubber, because thatís an indication that the blades need to be replaced.
Driving your vehicle in bad weather requires more focus, more distance, more patience, and less speed. Leave early for your destination so you donít feel rushed, and keep your vehicle maintained. That way, both you and your car will be able to handle nearly any challenge the weather might bring.