Winter Driving Tips from Gerstad Builders

Cars driving on snowy roads during a storm.

Cars driving on snowy roads during a storm.

It’s January and winter is in full swing here in Chicagoland. And no matter how long you’ve lived in the area or how much you’ve driven in snowy or icy weather, there’s always someone out there on the road who hasn’t. That is why Gerstad Builders thought this would be the perfect time to give some tips on how to drive in winter conditions, including what to do in an emergency, for those who don’t know exactly what to do and for those who could maybe use a refresher on this important topic.
Before you get on the road:

  • Get plenty of rest. It is important to avoid driving while fatigued at any time, especially when the weather is less than ideal. It only takes a second for something to happen, so you need to be alert at all times so you can react accordingly and safely.
  • Know your vehicle. Know how well your brakes typically work, where your blind spots are and if there are any headlights or brake lights out. Be sure to take care of any issues before heading out.
  • Keep your gas tank full. Well, at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up. Traffic also tends to be worse during inclement weather, so make sure you have enough gas to get you to your destination.
  • Check your tires. Make sure all of your vehicle’s tires are in good driving condition and properly inflated.
  • Check wiper blades. Make sure these are working properly as well.
  • Warm up. We want you to be warm on your way to your destination, which is why you’ll probably want to warm up your vehicle before you drive. However, you should never do this in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Have an emergency kit. You never know when (or where) you’ll find yourself stuck on the side of the road in a snow storm. An emergency kit may seem unnecessary at times, but we promise you’ll thank us later if you find yourself in a predicament. Kits should include such items as bottled waters, nonperishable snacks or energy bars, a thermal blanket, a first aid kit, flashlight (don’t forget the batteries), a brightly colored cloth (we’ll explain this later), matches or other fire starting device, maps (yes, paper ones), an ice scraper, a change of clothes and a pre-charged mobile device charger.

While Driving:

  • Don’t use cruise control if the road is slippery in any way.
  • Don’t accelerate or brake too quickly. This can cause skidding, so give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly and lightly applying the gas and brakes.
  • Increase following distance. Things happen in a split second while driving, so make sure you allow enough time to stop or react by increasing your following distance from three to four seconds to eight to ten seconds.
  • Don’t try to power up hills by applying extra gas. This will cause your wheels to spin. Avoid this by building up inertia before you reach the hill and let that carry you to the top; and make sure you don’t stop on the way up either. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.

In an emergency:

  • Stay with your vehicle for temporary shelter and to make it easier for rescuers to locate you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. This can cause carbon monoxide to leak into the passenger                         compartment if the engine is running.
  • Don’t over exert yourself trying to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie that bright piece of fabric to your vehicle’s antenna or on the outside of a rolled up window to signal distress and to make yourself stand out if conditions make visibility difficult. If it’s nighttime, keep the dome light on if possible so you can remain visible to rescuer.
  • Run the engine and heater just long enough to warm you up and to conserve gasoline.

Gerstad Builders wants you and others to be safe on the road during winter weather and at all times. And while some of the above advice may seem obvious, they could mean all the difference one day.
It’s important to be prepared for anything, which is why Gerstad Builders builds only the highest quality new homes throughout Chicagoland and in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. In addition, every Gerstad Builders community is conveniently located to shopping, dining, and entertainment destinations so you never have to go far from home, even in that dreaded winter weather. For more information on these new custom homes in McHenry, Poplar Grove, Richmond and Williams Bay, visit