Winter driving takes special level of mindfulness

Whether it’s snow, sleet or ice, winter weather can cause extremely dangerous road conditions.

After a fairly mild start to the season, Hinsdaleans have had to navigate those elements in recent weeks.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, in 2019, there were 440 fatal crashes, and an estimated 33,000 injury crashes that occurred in wintry conditions. Preparing oneself, and one’s vehicle, for winter weather is key.

Here are some helpful tips from the NHTSA to keep you and others safe:

• Slow down. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.

• Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside the truck. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes and exit the road frequently. If you find yourself behind a snow plow, stay far enough behind it and use caution if you pass the plow.

• Keep your gas tank close to full whenever possible. For electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, decrease the drain on the battery by keeping your electric vehicle as warm as possible during freezing temperatures. A good way to do this is by plugging in your vehicle at night during the winter and keeping the battery temperature in its optimal ranges.

• As the outside temperature drops, so does tire inflation pressure. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is in your owner’s manual and on a label located on the driver’s side door frame. Do not inflate your tires to the pressure listed on the tire itself. That number is the maximum pressure the tire can hold, not the recommended pressure for the your vehicle.

• Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks and supplies you might need in an emergency, including a snow shovel, broom, ice scraper, abrasive material (sand or kitty litter) in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow, jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices (flares and emergency markers), blankets for protection from the cold, a cell phone and charger, water, food and any necessary medicine.

If you should find yourself in an emergency situation with your vehicle, adhere to these guidelines:

• If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, stay focused on yourself and your passengers, your car and your surroundings.

• Stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself.

• Let your car be seen. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light on.

• Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of any snow and run your car only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm. Don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.

Let’s exercise the same consideration we’ve used throughout the pandemic to govern our behavior behind the wheel this season, promoting a safe environment for all.