Safe Winter Driving in Maine

It's that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, and before we know it, snow will be falling. While blankets of snow draping our towns and cities are nice to look at, they do not make for a winter wonderland on the roads. Cold weather conditions create many hazards and pose serious threats to safe driving.

At the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein, we see firsthand the effects of dangerous winter driving. Many hazardous driving conditions cannot be avoided, but being aware of important winter driving tips will help to lessen your chances of having an accident. The following guidelines will help Mainers navigate the upcoming frosty season:

Stay home if you can: Avoid excessive and unnecessary driving during storms. If you must travel, allow time for maintenance trucks to plow, salt and sand the roads.

Prep your vehicle: Prior to taking your car out on winter roads, make sure that it is equipped with the proper snow tires. Test the brakes, battery, exhaust system and defrosters. Check fluid levels, add antifreeze and switch to winter-weight oil.

Pack emergency equipment: Stock your car with a winter driving survival kit that includes: a flashlight, a shovel, a snow scraper/brush, sand or kitty litter for if you get stuck, and booster cables.

Reduce your speed: Extra time and distance is required in order to stop on snow or ice without skidding. Drive below posted speed limits, especially at intersections, off ramps, bridges and shady areas where black ice can form.

Never tailgate: Always keep at least three times more distance than usual between you and the car in front of you. Test your brakes often- brake slowly and never slam on the brakes.

Know your car’s limits: Do not assume that your car can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel drive cars and trucks can encounter trouble on icy roads.

Use the correct gears: Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads and use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills and unplowed roads.

Control your driving: Avoid any sudden actions while steering, braking or accelerating in order to stay on course.

Don’t panic if you skid: If you find yourself skidding on slick roadways, try to remain calm and do not brake. Instead, take your foot off the gas pedal and turn your car in the direction that you want to go. Use gentle, steady motions when turning the steering wheel.

Stop spinning the wheels if you get stuck: If you are stuck in snow, spinning the wheels will only make you dig deeper. Instead, turn your wheel side-to-side to clear snow out of the way and then lightly press on the accelerator. If necessary, shovel away snow and pour kitty litter around the wheels to help with traction.

Avoid distractions: Don’t talk on the phone while you are driving. Keep a charged cell phone with you in case of emergencies, but refrain from doing anything that keeps you from fully focusing on your driving and that of the vehicles around you.

With only one big winter storm under our belts thus far, it is inevitable that we Mainers have many more to come this season. By following the above guidelines, you will be better prepared to make it from point A to point B safe and sound during flurries, wintry mixes, blizzards and Nor’Easters.

Travel safely and always remember:

When driving in ice or snow, Joe says “please go slow.”

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