It’s certainly no secret that the winter months tend to produce substantial changes in driving conditions, especially in the northern states. Snow, ice, and sleet can turn a simple drive down the street into an extremely perilous event. Therefore, it’s only common sense to say that drivers should operate their vehicles with more than ordinary caution during this season—but, in practice, far too many of us simply don’t drive safely enough. Why is this so? To a large extent, a lot of us aren’t really aware of what it means to drive safely under winter conditions; although it may sound easy, there’s more to it than you might believe.

With that in mind, let’s go over some tips for staying safe on the roads during the winter months.

Pay Special Attention to Car Maintenance

Suffering an automotive breakdown is never a fun experience, but the misery increases considerably when it’s chilly outside. It’s one thing to wait outside for a tow truck when the weather is pleasantly warm, and quite another to stand in the freezing cold for help to arrive. You can save yourself a great deal of trouble by keeping a close eye on what’s under your vehicle’s hood—always ensure your fluid levels (oil, windshield, antifreeze, etc.) remain at an acceptable level. Make a note to take a look under the hood once a week or so.

Battery failure is more common throughout the winter months, as these devices simply don’t work as well in the cold. When buying a battery, it’s always a good idea to take into consideration your power needs during the winter.

Another problem area concerns the tires. Bear in mind that cold weather tends to cause automobile tires to lose pressure, potentially making them unsafe to drive on.

Dress Appropriately

Obviously, it’s best to wear relatively heavy clothing in the winter, but make sure that your coats and other apparel don’t cause a safety hazard. A heavy winter coat might encumber the free motion of your arms and legs while you’re driving; this can make it difficult to control your car properly in hazardous conditions.

Take It Slow

Remember that it takes longer to stop your vehicle on icy, slippery roads. For that reason, you should try to drive more slowly during these months, and hit the brakes earlier than you normally would. Also, navigate turns with caution.

Turn Off the Cruise Control

When road conditions are poor, cruise control can result in disaster. Why? This setting can cause your car to accelerate when it encounters an icy, slick patch. You need human control, not cruise control, while driving in these conditions.

Turn On the Headlights

This will enhance your visibility in snowy conditions. Be sure to clear any accumulated snow or ice away from the headlight area before embarking on a trip.

Plan Your Route in Advance

Driving around unfamiliar neighborhoods tends to increase the likelihood of an accident, simply because you aren’t acquainted with the pattern of stop signs, traffic lights, and turn lanes in the area. This danger increases significantly when ice or snow is on the roads. Now is not the time to be driving around in search of a detour while you keep taking your eyes off the road to look for familiar landmarks—figure out where you’re going before you leave home. As an extra precaution, ensure that someone knows the exact route you intend to travel.

Planning Your Route in Advance

Take a driving course to learn more about practicing safe driving and keeping you and your family safe.