Now that we’re in the midst of winter, we have more than the cold to contend with. Icy roads, wet driving conditions, and poor visibility can all become factors when getting behind the wheel for winter weather driving. For seniors, it’s especially important to make careful plans and preparations before you go out. This is the best way to reduce the likelihood of getting into an accident or having trouble on your next errand or trip. Driving should make your life easier and keep you connected to others; but winter can easily put an end to plans if we’re not prepared to adapt to the conditions at hand.
Check your car and consider having it serviced—before you hit the road
A good practice for anyone driving in the winter is to check your car over first. This includes checking your antifreeze levels, wiper fluid, tires, and even your car battery as cold weather can reduce battery life significantly. You should also have your brakes checked by a professional. For many seniors, driving may not be something you do much of, but that shouldn’t stop you from running errands or traveling during inclement weather if you absolutely have to.
By double-checking your car, you’re improving your safety while behind the wheel on wintry weather roads. You can also get help with this from family members, friends, or a local garage. Servicing your car and regular maintenance are especially important if you don’t drive your car regularly!
Stick to driving in daylight
Visibility will be both your biggest ally and greatest threat when it comes to winter driving. White outs, snowfall, or darkness can all contribute to poor road visibility, making driving problematic if not dangerous. It’s recommended to save trips for the daytime, so reserve errands, visits, and other longer trips for the daylight hours. If you plan to travel a long distance, let someone know where you’ll be going and when you expect to arrive.
Should you find yourself unable to resist the call of the open road at night, consider bringing a companion with you. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes on the road, and the company will make the trip more enjoyable all around.
Have a first-aid kit and other road essentials in your car in case of an emergency
It always pays to be prepared and it’s easy to do. Keeping a few key items in your trunk or back seat can really save the day in case you get into an accident or if you get stuck somewhere. Here are some helpful supplies to keep stocked in your car:
- First-aid kit
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Road flares
- Bottled water
- Extra coat, scarf, boots, and gloves
- Brush/Ice scrapper
You never know what will happen on the road but being prepared will make your next trip safer, especially if you should need any of your freshly stocked supplies!
Keep a cellphone on you when you have to drive
Carrying a cellphone with you when you go out will ensure you have access to help when you need it, whether it be from AAA for a tow or a friend for directions. Even if you’re not a big cellphone user, they’re handy in emergencies and they keep you connected to others, which can be incredibly useful when it comes to traveling during wintertime. It’s also important to know how to use your cellphone properly and to have a list of emergency phone numbers before you venture out.
Only drive when you feel at your best
AAA recommends that you never drive while fatigued, and that you get the right amount of rest before driving in winter weather. Only drive if you’re feeling up for it, and you’re both physically and mentally fit (don’t drive while fatigued or if you’re feeling confused), otherwise you might encounter visibility issues like losing track of other objects around you and your position on the road. Winter weather driving calls for good awareness and reaction times, and if you’re not up to the task, you may find the drive more stressful than you expected.
At the end of the day, stay home if it’s too bad outside!
If you don’t feel comfortable driving while conditions are icy, then there’s no shame in simply staying put—or asking a friend or loved one for a little help getting somewhere, especially if you have an important appointment or errand to run. Staying off the roads is the easiest way to avoid poor driving conditions, and that goes for everyone regardless of age. Curling up with your favorite person, pet, or book inside can be a wonderful way to spend a snowy day.