Winter Driving Tips for Ex-Californians: Plan Ahead With Checklist and Watch Road Conditions

The slippery roads and icy conditions that begin to appear in November require a different mind-set. No longer can one hop in the car with shorts and flip-flops and take a trip on a whim.

Winter Driving Checklist

Here’s a simple list of what former Californians need to do stay safe in winter:

  1. Plan ahead. Consider delaying the trip until the weather improves. Use the Internet or television to check travel conditions before leaving. Don’t venture into areas that are unfamiliar, particularly roads in open fields where horizontally driven snowfall can cut visibility to zero.
  2. Carry such items as an ice scaper, snow brush, extra window-wash solution (the kind that won’t freeze in minus-40-degrees-Celcius weather), sand to add traction, a shovel, first-aid kit, blanket, dry clothes, matches, fire extinguisher and non-perishable snack foods.
  3. Keep your gas tank full at least half full. One doesn’t want to run out of fuel if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
  4. Every November, switch to snow tires. Make sure to change all four tires to those with extra traction for winter conditions, such as icy roads. Never “mix and match” winter tires with those used during warmer seasons.
  5. Switch off the California mentality of “get in and go.” Drivers should slow down and leave a two-second interval between them and the car in front of them. Watch out for bridges, where black ice is more likely to form and the chance of losing control of your car increases.
  6. Check the tires’ air pressure at least once a month. Air pressure decreases as the mercury drops.
  7. When driving, listen to the radio for weather updates. Drivers need to leave themselves extra driving time to get to their destinations.
  8. If a driver is taking a longer trip, he should let a friend or family member know where he’s going and his estimated time of arrival.
  9. Keep an eye out for vehicles with flashing lights that remove ice and snow from roads. Never pass around or in between such vehicles.
  10. Drivers need to have a mechanic check out their cars or trucks before winter sets in. Get the needed repairs done in advance.

Cell Phones and Road Conditions

Another essential thing to have in winter is a working cell phone to call for help during emergencies. A word of caution, however: Many states and Canadian provinces ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

The main thing is don’t be impulsive. Be prepared and get into the groove of winter driving. And former California drivers should look at the positive side: They likely don’t have to worry about earthquakes knocking down freeway overpasses.

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