Seattle winters are generally mild, but when the temperature falls below 32 degrees road conditions often deteriorate quickly. Knowing how to drive in snow -- or scarier yet, icing conditions -- is vital to get where you need to go. These safe winter driving tips will help you keep the happy in holidays.
Maintain your car for winter driving in Seattle.
You are probably aware that you should have your fluid levels checked before winter arrives to make sure your antifreeze and oil are at the proper level. Ask your mechanic to check your tire tread, as well. Having the proper tire tread can also prevent hydroplaning in rainy, wet conditions.
The relatively mild Seattle winters do not call for the same antifreeze-to-water ratio or the same oil weight as the frigid cold of the mountains. If you are planning to cross Snoqualmie Pass or travel to other areas in the Cascades during in the coldest months, be sure to tell your mechanic.
Choose the right tires.
The majority of Seattle drivers should choose an all-season tire. If you make frequent trips into the mountains, you will need to look for a tire that is mud and snow rated. These tires are often required in the passes, depending on the weather conditions. In some cases, 2WD cars will also be required to have cable chains.
Plan your trips carefully if there is a possibility of winter weather.
Even if you drive safe in winter weather, many other area drivers do not. The safest thing to do is stay home when it snows in Seattle. If you must drive, though, being prepared is key. This includes:
- Planning your route to avoid problem areas
- Leaving early
- Letting friends or family know your planned route
- Making sure your cell phone is charged
- Packing a flashlight, jumper cables, and a shovel
- Considering taking a blanket, food, and water for longer trips
- Traveling with a bag of sand or kitty litter in case you get stuck
Take precautions when driving in icy conditions.
Driving in wintery weather requires different techniques than dry conditions. When driving in snow or ice:
- Never slam on the brakes
- Lift from the accelerator gently
- Avoid any sudden turns
- Remember that stopping distance is much greater than on dry roads
- Do not use cruise control
- Look and steer in the direction you want to go
Driving when you are tired or distracted can be dangerous in any situation, but especially when road conditions are poor.
Know what to do in an emergency.
If you are involved in an accident or have a mechanical issue, it is important to know what to do.
- Do not overexert yourself; working up a sweat will only make you colder.
- If you need to run your car for warmth, check to make sure the exhaust pipe is cleared first. Then, idle only for as long as it takes to get warm.
- At night, leaving your dome light on will use little battery but can help rescuers spot your vehicle.
- Bright fabric or other material tied to your antenna or hung out a window can help signal rescuers in the daytime.