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6 safety tips for winter driving

As we move closer to the winter season, temperatures are going to start dropping and roads are going to start becoming more dangerous to drive on. Unfortunately, vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in New Jersey during the winter, due to the increased risks of driving in such conditions. There are steps everyone can take, though, to make the roads safer this winter season. Here are six safety tips to keep you and your family safe while driving.

1. Prepare your vehicle.

Make sure that your vehicle has tires with good traction to decrease the chance of sliding on the road. Having chains or snow studs is an option as well. Be sure everything else is in good working order too, like the heater, defroster, brakes, lights (including hazard lights), battery, etc. Also make sure to keep your car well-stocked on antifreeze, gas, and oil at all times.

Checking these things before hitting the winter roads will decrease the chance of breakdowns or malfunctions. Always have a scraper handy for clearing ice off of the car, and stash extra blankets and coats/gloves/hats in case of a breakdown.

2. Increase visibility as much as possible.

In the winter, there will always be some decreased visibility compared to other times of year. However, taking steps to improve visibility will make it much safer for you and your family to drive. Always remove any ice or snow from your car before driving, making sure that your windshields are completely clear of debris. Prevent your windshields from fogging up by running heat in the car. Turning off the recirculation can also prevent the windshield from fogging up as you drive.

Always turn on your headlights if it is snowing, foggy, or overcast/dark outside. This not only gives you a bit more visibility of what's around you, but even more than that, it makes it much easier for other cars to see you. Especially in snow and fog, headlights can be a huge factor in whether or not cars see each other and are able to prevent an accident.

3. Never pass when it's snowing or foggy.

If you have any sort of decreased visibility while driving, such as snow or fog, do not attempt to pass other cars. It's very common that drivers cannot see approaching cars until they are too close for the driver to react. When it comes to winter driving, being patient is being safe.

4. Drive more slowly and allow more time for turns/stops.

Roads get slippery and icy during the winter. This can cause cars to slide very easily and for drivers to lose control of the car. During the winter, turn slowly and accelerate more gradually than usual. Never make sudden turns or accelerate/brake suddenly or unexpectedly.

Brake early, especially when approaching an intersection. You will need more time than usual to slow down, or you'll risk sliding and being unable to stop your vehicle. Start slowing down well in advance of an intersection or a spot where you need to turn.

5. Stay calm if you start sliding.

The last thing you want to do if your car starts sliding is to slam on the gas or brakes. Instead, remove your foot from the pedals and steer in the direction of the slide. Once you have control of your vehicle again, straighten yourself out and accelerate gradually to get going.

6. Stay aware of other cars.

Other cars will be prone to the same risks as you. Stay alert to the vehicles around you and watch out for others who start sliding. Also be wary of those who are driving recklessly, stopping quickly, and/or making sharp turns. A key part of winter driving is knowing the risks and acting accordingly. By staying alert and cautious of your own vehicle and others, you can greatly increase the safety of your loved ones this winter.

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