12 Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Over the holidays, millions of families will head off on road trips even though their cars might not be in tip-top shape.

It’s especially important for Coloradoans to prepare for winter driving. Car trouble can leave you in danger of being hit by other cars or being marooned during snowy and freezing weather. Here are a dozen tips – five for your vehicle, seven for you – that can help keep you and your loved ones safe this season.

A High-Five For Your Vehicle

You want avoid getting stranded on a dark and lonely highway, but you also want to avoid being overcharged for preventative work your car needs. The car repair experts at the online site RepairPal.com, a nationwide network of certified, pre-screened repair shops that help you find a fair price for quality work, offer five critical tips that can help you shape up your car.

1.  Pick a Good Repair Shop
Walking into the first shop you find on Google is like rolling the dice, so do your homework by searching for a shop with certified technicians.
2.  Know the Magic Number
Research repair prices before visiting the shop and note any prices much higher or lower than the average (which may signal low-quality parts or potential over-billing).
3.  Do a Road Trip Check-Up
Because unexpected breakdowns usually cost more than preventative work, get your vehicle inspected at least one week before hitting the road.
4.  Check Out that Warranty
A poor repair could force you to come back weeks later, so always choose a shop that offers an excellent warranty.
5.  Don’t Trust All Reviews
While Yelp and Foursquare are great for finding restaurants, fake reviews and uninformed customers make them unsuitable for auto shops. A free online resource called RepairPal independently certifies auto repair shops nationwide, provides data on the average cost of each repair and offers trusted customer reviews.

Seven Tips for the Driver

1. Check Out Conditions Online
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) sponsors the COtrip.org website. It prepares you with webcams that show mountain passes, current weather and road conditions, road work, alerts and closures.

2. Be Patient
When roads are bad, it takes longer to get there. Leave early. To maintain traction, drive slowly and avoid sudden lane changes and braking. If you do skid, steer in the direction the car’s rear end is moving to recover traction before straightening out.

3. Get Low
When snow is blowing toward you, you’re going to want to switch on your brights – and you will be blinded by light reflecting off the snow. Use the low beams.

4. Get Good Snow Tires
By law, your tires must have at least 1/8 inch of tread. Also carry chains. At times, CDOT will bar your way if you don’t have one or the other.

5. Carry an Emergency Kit
Carry an ice scraper, flashlight, emergency food, a first-aid kit that includes essential prescription medications, a blanket, cellphone and charger, wiper fluid and flares.

6. Bow to the Plow
When you see CDOT’s big orange snowplow trucks, avoid driving alongside them. Because of the plow’s height and length, the driver may not be able to see you. Never pass on the right. You will be caught in hard snow, ice and rock thrown up by the plow blade.

7. Drive Sober
More than 150 people are killed each year in alcohol-related crashes – more than one-third of Colorado’s traffic fatalities. Driving under the influence of drugs is just as dangerous. In 2013, Colorado tallied 103 fatalities involving drugged drivers. Unfortunately, Highway 82 sees a lot of DUI driving around the holidays, so stay sober and drive defensively.