Millions of Americans will do some traveling this holiday season – the majority of it by car. Of course, winter weather creates a unique set of challenges on the roadways. Though St. Louis doesn’t get much snow or winter weather, many of our friends to the north and out west are already seeing snow. Make sure to know the weather where you are traveling, and take heed to the following tips to make holiday travel less stressful.
Prepare your car for winter
Before leaving, give your car a thorough check-up. Do wipers need to be replaced? Are your fluid levels where they should be? Your tires need to be in good shape for driving on wet or snowy roads, and be sure your radiator and cooling systems are up to snuff. We know you’ve heard this before, but bear with us, your car should have an emergency kit. Pack it with jumper cables, blankets, a first-aid kit, flares, food and water, a flashlight and other safety gear. A shovel and cat litter or sand (to provide traction should you get stuck in snow or ice) are good ideas as well.
Before you leave
Know exactly where you’re going, with printed maps, and check weather conditions along your planned route. Let someone know your itinerary, so if you don’t arrive on time, officials know where to look for you. If your car has snow or ice on it, make sure it is completely cleared off before you depart. Don’t forget to clear your headlights and other lights, along with the roof – ice and snow blowing from your car could create a hazard for other drivers.
When you’re on the road
Are roads snowy or icy? Take it slow. Take it slow. Take it slow. Sorry for repeating ourselves, but it’s absolutely vital to, yes, take it slow. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, and make sure you leave extra room between your vehicle and others on the road. Watch for ice patches on bridges, overpasses, and shady spots. Remember, having four-wheel or all-wheel drive does not mean your car will stop or steer better on ice.
If you’re caught in a storm that seems like it’s too much for you to handle, seek refuge as soon as you can. Of course, sometimes it’s best not to drive in snow and ice at all – stay home if you can.
If your vehicle becomes disabled
Nobody wants to think about being stranded on the side of the road in a storm, but it happens to thousands of people every year. If your vehicle is disabled, be sure to stay with it. Run your engine and heater for short intervals, and open one of your windows slightly to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. Light two flares (remember that vehicle emergency kit? Now’s the time to use it) and place one a safe distance from both the front and rear of your vehicle. Note your location with mileposts, exit numbers or cross-streets and call the authorities or a tow truck.