Comfort is on the Horizon

Safe Winter Driving in the Delaware Valley

Safe Winter Driving in the Delaware Valley
Do The Right Stuff When The White Stuff Falls!

Even in the harshest winter conditions, Horizon Services' plumbing and HVAC technicians can always be found out on the highways and byways of Delaware, Pennsylvania and Marylands, making their way to your home for service and repairs in our bright orange trucks. With a safety record that's second to none, you can be confident that Horizon service techs know a thing or two about safe driving when ice and snow hit the roadways.

We all know that even a dusting of snow in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland can result in serious traffic jams and scary driving situations. The winter of 2010 saw a record number of snow and ice-related car accidents in our region. The Horizon Comfort Zone recommends that whenever wintry weather threatens, you should exercise extreme discretion, precaution and alertness on the roads. If you really don't have to be out driving in winter weather, just don't. But if you should find yourself out on the roads in harsh winter weather, here are some safe driving tips from Horizon's service technicians:

Slow and Steady Wins The Race:
Would you rather arrive at your destination late...or dead? Our guess is late. Speed kills...especially in the wintertime. There's no shame or embarrassment in driving SLOW when the roads are snowy and icy. No arrival time, no appointment is worth putting your safety at risk. Rabbits wind up in ditches...or graveyards. Turtles make it home in one piece. If time is of the essence, leave for your destination early. And try to avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible.

Keep Your Distance:
Tailgating other cars is a sure way to get into a winter accident. Even if you're driving slow and apply your brakes in a timely manner, it's easy to slide and ram into car ahead of you or skate through intersection into oncoming traffic. During GOOD WEATHER, it is recommended that you maintain AT LEAST one car length of distance for every 10 miles-per-hour in which you are traveling. In the winter time, try doubling or even tripling that amount just to be on the safe side.

Take Control of Skids and Fish-Tails:
One of the best reasons to drive slow is that you will minimize the likelihood that you need to make sudden stops. Slamming the brakes almost always results in skids and sliding on snowy and icy road surfaces. And if a skid has already begun, slamming the brakes will almost always make the skid worse.
  • If your rear wheels are skidding, take your foot off the accelerator. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go (that is, if your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right). As you recover, you might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently. If you have an Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS), do not pump the brakes, but apply steady pressure.
  • If your front wheels are skidding, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately. The wheels will start to skid sideways, slowing the vehicle and returning traction. Gradually steer in the direction you want to go; put the transmission back into "drive" and accelerate gently.

Make Sure You Have Good Tire Tread:
New tires usually have about 10/32" treads. To grip snow and ice-covered roads, your tires should have at least 6/32" deep tread. If they don't, replace them. If there is significant snow or ice accumulation and it is expected to be around for quite along time, consider adding chains or snow tires.

Don't Use Cruise Control:
Cruise control is only for fast driving on open highways in warm weather. If you hit an icy patch, cruise control can actually make your car accelerate and hydroplane out of control.

Examine Your Windshield and Windows:
It's important to have good visibility when driving in winter weather. Make sure you have plenty of windshield washing fluid; make certain that it squirts OK onto the windshield. You may also want to apply a water-repelling solution on the outside of your windows like Rain-X to make sure that ice and frost don't accumulate. On the insides of windows, apply a spray-on/wipe-off defogger (available at most auto stores). And make sure you start the winter with a fresh set of wiper blades.

Clear Snow Off Car Roofs and Hoods:
Don't just brush snow off windows; clear snow off your entire car. This will make it easier for other cars to see you, especially in a white-out situation. It will also prevent large chunks of snow breaking off or blinding powder blowing off and endangering the safety of drivers behind you.

Be Wary of Black Ice:
Snow melt during the day can quickly freeze when the sun goes down and temperatures take a rapid dip below the freezing point. This can create a thin, sometimes invisible, but extremely slick coating on road surfaces called "black ice". Black ice is one of the leading causes of winter-related car accidents in the Delaware Valley. Try not to drive after periods of melt...especially if the forecast is for rapidly falling temperatures.

Fill 'er Up:
At a minimum, maintain at least a half a tank of gas at all times during winter months. This will prevent gas line freezing. Also, you never know if you'll be stranded in a snow-related traffic jam. And in a blizzard, gas stations may be closed.

Never Drive Impaired:
Winter driving demands that all of your senses be at their most heightened. Do not drive if you are sleepy, ill, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A mug of coffee or hot chocolate can help keep you alert -- but try not to sip and drive at the same time; keep both hands on the wheel and wait until you come to a stop to take a drink.

Stay Behind Snow-Plows:
They may be moving slowly down the road, but resist the temptation to pass them. First, they are blazing a safe trail for you. Second, in passing them, you are taking a lot of risk. Your acceleration may cause you to skid. You may not be able to evade oncoming traffic in time. And the plow could end up spraying your windshields with snow, salt or gravel. Plus, snow-plows have blind spots: the driver may not see you attempting to pass and end up making a sudden turn right into your vehicle.

Keep a Winter Survival Kit On-Hand:
This should include an ice scraper; a bag of sand, kitty liter or other abrasive material for road traction; snow shovel; de-icer; flares; flashlight or lantern; cell phone; jumper cables; blanket; water bottle; batteries.