Safe Winter Driving

Driving in the winter time can be nerve racking and sometimes even dangerous. Winter driving means dealing with snow, ice, hail, freezing rain, and other drivers that may be inexperienced or anxious about driving when road conditions are poor.

Although drivers can't control the weather they can control the winter maintenance of their vehicle. A good way to minimize your winter driving risks is by following these guidelines before the cold season begins:

  • Get an engine tune-up in the fall. Switch to winter-weight oil if you aren't already using all-season oil and be sure that your lights and brakes are in good working order.
  • Make sure you have your battery and voltage regulator checked. If battery terminal posts seem to be building up corrosion, clean them with a past of baking soda and water. Let it foam and then rinse with water. Apply a thin film of petroleum jelly to the terminal posts to prevent corrosion and reconnect.
  • Make sure that all of your vehicle's fluids are at proper levels. Antifreeze should not only be strong enough to prevent freezing but fresh enough to prevent rust.
  • Make sure that your wiper blades are cleaning properly. Winter wiper blades are helpful for driving in the snow. They are covered with a rubber boot to keep moisture away from working parts of the blade.
  • Consider using special winter tires for driving in heaving snow or on icy roads.

Remember these tips will only help minimize your driving risks in the winter. Winter weather and road conditions can be unpredictable so if a road emergency does occur be sure to have these items on hand in your car during the winter season:

  • Snow shovel
  • Scraper with a brush
  • Tow chain or strap
  • Tire chains
  • Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  • Abrasive material (cat litter, sand, salt or traction mats)
  • Jumper cables
  • Warning devices (flares or reflective triangles)
  • Brightly colored cloth to signal for help
  • Empty coffee or similar type can containing candles, matches (in a water tight container) or a lighter, high energy food (chocolate or dried fruits)
  • Sleeping bags or blankets, ski caps and mittens
  • First-aid supplies
  • Compass

And remember the best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. Letting a cold vehicle's engine idle for a long time could actually harm it.

For more information on safe winter driving please visit The National Safety Council at or call the Broome County Health Department Traffic Safety Coordinator, Christine Muss, at 607.778.2807.

11/07/2007 - 1:42pm