Maintain your vehicle in perfect condition and winterize it. Continuously check tires for tread and appropriate pressure, which decreases as temperatures fall. Install snow tires or chains, especially for traversing hilly or rocky terrain. Perfectly functioning heater/defroster, ignition, wipers and radiator are especially important. Gas tanks should always be kept at least half full. High-grade windshield cleaner and anti-freeze liquid for de-icing should be topped off. Safety belts and child safety seats are not only the law, but can make the difference between life and death in case of a collision.
Environment & Roads
While main highways and roads are cleared regularly, edges, shady areas, bridges and corners remain frozen and hide extremely dangerous black ice. Reduced speed is advised when approaching these areas. Following in the path of vehicles ahead and not going off track to find your own is the best course. Carpooling or public transportation is practical and safe in winter. Leave the car at home or at a ConnDOT Park & Ride Lot. Fewer vehicles aid in road-clearing operations, save gas and money, lower emissions and reduce vehicular wear and tear. More importantly, help in an emergency is immediately at hand. Sand and salt prevent snow and ice from adhering to road surfaces. They provide traction, prevent snow build-up and help with removal, especially on slopes, blind corners, bridges and crossroads. Snowplows, salt and sand trucks can be a hazard. They are slow-moving and heavy and their drivers have limited visibility, especially in blowing snow. Remain three car-lengths behind and do not try to pass them. Try to avoid travel during rush hours. Request “flex hours” at work during a winter storm if possible.
Safe Driving Habits
Do not move until car windows and front and rear windshields are defrosted and clean. A slow start, testing steering and brake controls repeatedly, gives a feel for the road. Gentle pressure on the brakes keeps tires from spinning and provides a sense of the traction levels. Winter driving speeds should be half or even one-third the posted speed limits. Leave yourself adequate time to reach your destination. Drive defensively and be observant. Avoid sudden stops and slamming on the brakes; locked brakes on ice cause loss of steering control. Gentle, repeated pumping will safely bring the vehicle to a halt. Switch to low-beam headlights in snow or fog. All lenses, headlights, directional, tail and rotating lights should be kept clean for good visibility. Maintaining safe distance is even more crucial in winter, as the stopping distance is longer and any moment can turn into an emergency situation.
Keep your trunk equipped with items for emergencies like jumper cables, flashlights, batteries, shovels and even small change for a phone call. In case of a skid, immediately move your foot off both the accelerator and brake. Steer into the skid or the direction the vehicle is taking. Grip the steering wheel firmly, not making sudden turns. A light touch usually corrects the swerve safely. If stranded, remain with your vehicle until help arrives. Do not try to repair breakdowns on main thoroughfares on the side of oncoming traffic.
Take a Driving Course
Hamden Driving School
2911 Dixwell Ave., Suite 307
Hamden, CT 06518
The school runs flexible class schedules. Its instructors are certified by the Connecticut State Department of Education and licensed by the DMV. Bilingual instructors are available. Informal, interactive classes are both educational and enjoyable. Learning is balanced between lectures, one-on-one and group work, multimedia presentations, guest instructors and educational games.
According to INRIX, Connecticut has the fastest stretch of highway in the nation. Northeast of Hartford, for over a mile, I-84 is routinely traveled by speeding drivers. This makes it particularly perilous in winter. Route 164 off I-395 towards Foxwoods becomes treacherous due to numerous streams under the roadway that ice over and cause cars to swerve. Each degree of falling temperatures renders ice increasingly slippery. Rural state routes remain frozen over with black ice for longer and secondary routes should be approached with caution. Deer and other wildlife are more visible in winter as they move in search of food. Alertness is required in deer migration areas, which are usually well posted. Slow down, stopping if necessary, to let them pass safely. Avoid animals if possible; however, do not swerve into oncoming traffic and risk a head-on collision with another vehicle or object.
Knowing What to Expect
Keep abreast of conditions via updated weather reports. Radio, TV and mobile apps help in wise decision making. Call ConnDOT’s Operations Center at 1-800-443-6817 for information. The mantra for driving safely in winter is to be prepared, be alert, be slow and be in charge.