We may be staying indoors more than we usually would, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t hitting the road with our families. You may be out and about this winter taking care of errands, for example. Most of the time, this will involve taking your kids with you. Or perhaps you’re going on a long road trip in order to visit a few family members for the holidays. No matter what, chances are that you are driving around quite a bit throughout the winter with your children. And whether or not you’re nervous about it, perhaps you should be.
There are a lot of car accidents each year. According to the NHTSA, there are 50,000 accidents that take place each year that are related to towing alone. And while car accidents can and do occur any time of year, there are certain conditions that make driving during the winter particularly problematic.
Cars can have more difficulty functioning during the winter. Cold temperatures can lead to mechanical errors and frozen components. For that matter, the roads are not at their best during the winter. It’s easy for them to ice over, causing slipping and sliding, with some cars running off the road simply due to a small patch of ice. Though municipalities attempt to address this through salting roads and other techniques, it’s impossible to ensure that all roads are safe — and more rural areas are particularly problematic.
The roads themselves are not the only issue to consider. If your car ends up stuck in a snowbank or even stuck on the side of the road on a cold night, you could end up in serious trouble (especially if your phone is dead or is out of its service area). When it’s just you in the car, that’s one thing. But taking your family adds on to the risk and the stress alike.
Let’s explore some of the things that you can do to make driving during the winter safer. This isn’t just about you; it’s about everyone in the car with you. While it’s difficult to avoid hitting the road entirely, there is a lot that you can do to make venturing out onto the wintery roads safer. Take it seriously and be careful before you get into your car with your kids.
1. Schedule an Inspection
In most areas, you’ll only legally need to get your car inspected once a year. But is this really enough? Think about the fact that we typically are advised to have our roofs inspected at least twice a year. The same should go for your car. While you may not need to pay for an official inspection twice a year, you shouldn’t just rely on that required yearly inspection to ensure that your car is safe to drive. If you can’t afford to have your car inspected more than once a year, try to schedule that inspection shortly before the winter begins. This will ensure that any services that need to be done are taken care of ahead of time. Preventative repairs can also be done at this time. You don’t want your car to end up damaged on the side of the road during the winter. Catching issues just as they begin is the best way of preventing that.
2. Check Your Car Before Hitting The Road
Just because you recently had your car inspected, that doesn’t always mean it will remain in good shape throughout the winter. Anything can happen to your car without you realizing it. This is why it’s a good idea to give your car a quick once-over each time before you hit the road during the winter. Warm your car before you head out, not only for your personal comfort but to help remove ice or frost that may cloud the windows and windshield. Walk around the car to make sure that the tires are inflated and that your tailpipe isn’t blocked with snow or ice. This kind of routine can ensure that your car is road-ready before you head out.
3. Use Snow Tires
If you can source snow tires for your car, you should do so. Obviously, this is more of a concern for those who live in more extreme wintery areas. But many parts of the country can experience snowy and icy roads; if that applies to you, you should look for snow tires if they’re going to be driving on a regular basis. These types of tires can make it easier for cars to slow down even when the roads are not in ideal condition. Considering the fact that trucks traveling 65 miles per hour can take the length of two football fields to stop in the best of conditions, this is something that could end up preventing a serious accident.
4. Carry an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit is incredibly important when you’re driving during the winter with your children. You never know when your car might fail you or when you may be stuck in the cold waiting for help. An emergency kit should include a blanket, water, hand warmers, a flashlight, socks, granola bars, as well as baby food and diapers if you have young children. Be sure to bring a backup phone charger and emergency flares, as well. This will make it easier for all of you to stay safe and healthy as you wait for assistance.
5. Don’t Drive Drowsy
Driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk or otherwise intoxicated. This is especially dangerous when you’re driving with kids, who may jolt you in and out of drowsiness. Make sure that you drink coffee if you find yourself drowsy on the road before going home or stop at a hotel if you’re in the midst of a road trip. Don’t strike out on a drive if you’re sleepy at all.
6. Remember Road Safety
Road safety isn’t just about driving. It’s also about making sure that your kids are safe around the winter roads in general. During the holidays and snow days, it’s easy for children to get rowdy while playing outside. But make sure that they stay out ditches while they’re playing and watch them carefully to make sure that they’re aware of where roads are. When covered with snow, roads may be difficult for children to differentiate from yards. In general: watch your kids like a hawk when they’re in the snow.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have fun with your kids or that you should never drive during the winter with them. It just means that you need to be careful, and to employ strategies to keep you and your precious cargo safe.