You hear it every week, some poor driver heads out in their car for what they think will be a normal journey to work, or perhaps to meet a friend, only to get into a bad car accident and lose their life; it’s even more common in winter when snow, rain and ice can make conditions even tougher to traverse. That’s why, if you’re a driver, it pays to prepare yourself and your vehicle for the coming winter.

If you plant to put the pedal to the metal this winter, here are some simple safety tips to take into consideration before you get going:

Plan Ahead

A car accident lawyer can help you deal with the fallout of a car crash, but the simplest way of keeping yourself out of trouble on the roads come winter is to always plan ahead. Before you set off on a journey, always take the time to check your phone’s weather app, tune in to local radio or use your prefered method of checking out conditions on your route, so that you can take preventative action, and not be caught unawares by icy roads or flash floods, for example.

As well as that, you should also take the time to actually plan your route. In winter, if the conditions are adverse, then it’s always a good idea to not only take the shortest route possible to your destination, but also the route that’s least likely to encounter problems, so if, for example, it’s raining heavily, void routes that pass by riverbanks; this would be enough to prevent any serious problems on the road.

Let Someone Know Your Plans

If you’re heading out in the car, and the snow is coming down, or you can hear the wind whipping the leaves from the ground, it’s probably a good idea to let someone like a spouse, friend or family member know of your plans, so that if you don’t reach yo5ru final destination in good time, they will be alerted and if necessary set out to find you.

Pack for All Eventualities

Even if you’re only making what you consider to be a short trip, if conditions are rough, or the weather woman has predicted that it’s likely to be snow/rain/blow hard later in the day, you really should prepare for the worst by packing a winter travel safety kit in your trunk. You can buy these ready-made or put one together yourself, but as a minimum, your winter safety kit should contain a cell phone and charger, flashlight and candles (with matches, of course), blankets, food and water, de-icer, a radio and a book or device to keep you entertained as you wait for help to come. You may also want to carry some extra fuel in the trunk just in case.

Stay Tanked Up

It’s important, in the midst of a cold winter, to keep your gas tank filled at least halfway up all of the time, even if you don't plan to do much driving. Doing this will stop your gas line from freezing up and stranding you at the most inopportune of moments.

Drink Lots of Water

This might seem more like a general health tip than anything you need to worry about when driving on the roads this winter, but the thing is, if you do get stranded in a snowdrift, or suffer a similarly inconvenient and possibly dangerous interruption to your journey, there is every possibility that you could become dehydrated and that would reduce your ability to think your way out of your predicament, and should you get back on the road, it could also lead to duller reactions and lower levels of alertness, which would obviously be a problem in tough conditions.

Drive Slower

I know there are few people who enjoy driving slowly, but in winter it can become something of a necessity, especially if the roads are coated with lots of slippery ice or wet leaves and other debris, which if hit too fast the wrong way, could cause a calamity. If it’s snowy, icy or otherwise very slippery, then ideally, you should slow down by approximately 50 percent if you want to minimize your chances of getting into some kind of car smash. You should also make a real effort to both accelerate and decelerate more cautiously than you usually would to avoid any miscalculations.

Be a Smooth Operator

When conditions are challenging, it takes a smooth touch to get through a journey safely. So, try to remain cool. Calm and collected at the wheel; don’t get nervous and apply your foot to the gas too hard or grasp the wheel too tightly - you might think that doing these things will help you maintain control, but actually, the opposite is likely to be true!

Learn How to Get Out of a Skid

It’s important that you learn how to get out of a skid before you drive in icy conditions because, as you will probably know, braking on an icy road can all too easily lead to your wheels locking and you skidding completely out of control. More than a few serious injuries, and sadly, fatalities, have been caused by just this. Take the time to practice recovering from a skid now if you want to be safe come winter.

Look After Your Tires

You don’t want to be heading into winter with tires that are looking pretty bald, or which aren't correctly inflated; to do so would invite disaster. So, before winter hits, get your tires, and in fact, the rest of your vehicle checked out by a professional mechanic and ensure they are in the best condition they can possibly be. You might also want to invest in a set of snow chains if you live in an area that’s likely to see a lot of snow - you’ll only need to use these when the snow has stuck, but they will make your vehicle a lot more stable, so they are definitely worth the investment.

Keep Your Distance

In winter, and especially if the roads are covered in snow or ice, it’s even more important that you don’t tailgate and that you do what you can to deter others from tailgating you because there is much more danger on the roads and the further apart you all are, the less likely one person’s poor judgement is likely to lead to a car crash calamity.

Stop Regularly

If you’re making a long journey in the dead of winter, you might not realize it, but it is actually quite a tiring experience, more so than driving at any other time of the year, not only because it’s colder, but also because you have a lot more hazards to look out for, which is why you should plan frequent stops into your journey. Stop at least once every hour to stretch, drink some coffee and perhaps have something hot to eat and you’ll notice that you feel much more alert on the bleak winter roads.

Don’t Stop too Often

Although rest stops should be taken very regularly, conversely, when you’re driving in the winter, stopping as little as you can manage while you’re moving by slowing down until traffic lights change, for example, is a good strategy for staying safe because you don’t need nearly as much inertia to get moving again when you’re rolling as you do when you’ve stopped completely, and on slippery roads, this can make all the difference.

Stay in the Car

If, despite your best efforts, you do find yourself stuck in your vehicle unable to continue with your journey for whatever reason, unless there is a restaurant/store/call box etc. very close to you, your best course of action is almost always to stay in your car and wait for help to come to you. Before doing this, you may need to get out and ensure your car’s exhaust is free from snow; if snow gets into the exhaust it could cause a buildup of fumes which would be dangerous, but other than that, sit back, turn on the radio and have something to eat - it won’t be long before help turns up, providing you packed your emergency kit and were able to contact them! It may also help for you to carry some colorful flag or piece of cloth with you, which you can tie to your car’s antenna so that it will be easily spotted if you get caught up in a snowdrift where it might not be so easy to find you.

The bottom line: If you want to avoid getting into difficulties on the roads this winter, above all else, you need to be prepared. You need to know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there and what needs to be done if you do get into trouble. This post will certainly help you with this, but it can never hurt to brush up on your driving in preparation for the most dangerous season (for drivers at least) too.