In the popular Christmas carol, the best way to reach grandmother’s house is to travel by sleigh “over the river and through the woods”, but these days, most people find their personal vehicles a far more reliable option. However, vehicles can also be far more dangerous than sleigh rides in this weather and since my 17 year old is driving now, I have been particularly on edge this winter living in the United States Northeast.
The holidays are the busiest travel time of the year, and according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 91 percent of all long-distance travelers will rely on their personal vehicle to get them to grandmother’s house, or wherever they may be headed. Unfortunately, the winter season is also the most dangerous time of year for road conditions. Keep that in mind before you head over the river or through the woods this season, and make sure to apply these five winter driving tips from Michelin.
* Brake, don’t panic. In slippery road conditions, your wheels may lock and slide when you apply the brake. If this happens to you, don’t panic. Release your foot from the brake to slow the skid’s momentum and recover traction, then slowly apply the brake again.
* Outfit your vehicle with the right tires. If you frequently encounter snow or ice, and the temperature consistently approaches freezing (32F), you need the extra grip of winter tires, even if you have a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle. Winter tires are designed to perform better in a wide range of winter conditions by improving your vehicle’s grip and shortening braking distances. Include switching to winter tires on your seasonal projects list to keep you safer on the road.
* Turn cautiously. In slippery conditions, turns present the greatest potential for an accident, so as you approach a turn, be sure to slow your speed and maintain that speed throughout the turn. Do not accelerate; a sudden change in speed could cause you to lose control. You should also avoid braking during a turn to reduce your skid risk. Brake in the straightaway before the turn and move through the turn at a slower, controlled speed.
* Love the lane you’re in. Changing lanes can increase your chances of a spin out. If the roads are icy or covered in slush, these conditions are apt to be worse on the shoulders and in less traveled lanes, so avoid them if you can. Find the lane that works best for you and stay there as long as possible.
* Get defensive. You’ve long heard about the importance of defensive driving and this practice is invaluable during the winter months. Just as you are struggling with the road conditions, so are the drivers around you – particularly if they were not driving respective to the weather in the first place. So slow down, allow that car in front of you some extra room and don’t cut off any other motorists. The more you prepare for your own safety, the easier it will be for others to do the same.
Celebrating the drive home
The drive home is an iconic holiday tradition for many Americans and to celebrate it this year, Michelin will once again sponsor the America’s Car Museum (ACM) and North American International Auto Show’s Drive Home. This year’s event, called the Heritage Run, starts on Dec. 27 in Boston and ends on Jan. 7 in Detroit. The 12-day, 10-state, 2,150-mile jaunt will be traveled by three iconic American cars from the ACM, the 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, the 1961 Chrysler 300G and the 1966 Ford Mustang all fitted with modern winter tires for added safety. You can learn more about the Drive Home and how to follow it yourself by visiting Americascarmuseum.org.
Winter Is Coming
I’m not talking about the Game of Thrones. This is more like the “game of getting home safely” and hopefully this game doesn’t put us up against cruel, maddening competitors on the road. Like I tell my son, “It’s not your driving I don’t trust, it’s the other drivers and the one we call Mother Nature.” So drive cautiously, carefully, and just simply enjoy the trip!