You’re back in school, and for the next several months your driving will be subject to shorter daylight hours, your busy schedule, and frequent bad weather conditions. Here are some tips to help you navigate safely through the school year.
- Decreasing daylight hours means you’ll be driving to school and after-school events in dark or near-dark conditions. Remember to stay especially alert and focused on your driving. Don’t speed, even if your schedule is tight and you’re running behind. Allow enough time to get there without rushing. In particular, drive cautiously in school parking lots. You are sharing space with other new drivers and all your fellow students trying to get to class, the big game or other event. Be patient and considerate, and keep your cool!
- Weather-wise, you and other new drivers are learning to deal safely with the rains, fog, snow, ice and darkness of fall, winter and spring. It boils down to preparing and operating your car properly. The two main challenges for safe driving in bad weather are visibility and vehicle control.
- Rainy weather hinders your vision of the road, signs and other traffic control devices, and other vehicles and pedestrians. You need to maintain a clear view through your windshield, mirrors, and rear and side windows. Use your wipers of course, but also learn how to use the fan, temperature, and defogger controls to clear the windshield and windows of rain or mist. Be sure the outside mirrors are clear before you drive. Wipe them off if necessary.
- When wet conditions turn to freezing, use the same controls to defrost and clear your windshield and windows. Never drive with your windshield, rear window, and other windows and mirrors obstructed with snow or ice. First, start the engine and set the fan and temperature controls according to the owner’s manual. If you have enough time, let them gradually melt and loosen the snow/ice coating; then clear it with your wipers. Sometimes, though, you’ll have to do some scraping–when the coating is very thick or especially hard…or when you simply need to get going sooner. In any case, before you leave, be sure your view–both front and rear–will be unobstructed. Also ensure that the wiper blades are free of ice buildup. If they’re encrusted, they won’t make full contact with the glass and wipe it clean.
- During these seasons, not all darkness stems from shorter days. It also comes from overcast skies, sometimes lasting for days. Don’t hesitate to use your headlights when the lighting is dim. It’s not just for you to see better, but also for others to see you. And the same goes double for driving in heavy rains, misty or foggy weather, or blinding snowfalls.
- Controlling your car on slippery surfaces, or in deep snow, is the other challenge. Your car should have all-season tires in good condition, or snow tires. “Good condition” means having enough tread and being properly inflated. To drive safely on wet, icy or snow-covered pavements, first be sure to drive at a safe speed. If you begin to slide, you need to know how to steer your car out of trouble, and how to brake correctly. To prevent collisions, try to keep enough space between your car and other vehicles. Never tailgate. Know where icy spots typically occur–such as on bridges and in low areas–and drive cautiously in these places as well as on curves and hills. Avoid driving in deep snow where your car can lose traction and get stuck.
- Now, even though you may see fewer work zones while driving in the fall, winter and spring, they are still out there. And whether work is under way or not, you need to obey the posted speed limit and exercise special caution in these roadway areas–even in the “off-season.”
To learn more–including how you can take protective action–go to this website and click on “Safe Driving”: