Winter-Driving Tips

This winter, follow these 12 expert winter-driving tips to help keep you and your horse safe.
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This winter, follow these 12 expert winter-driving tips to help keep you and your horse safe.
During inclement weather, double the normal distance between vehicles to allow more stopping room. | Photo by Heidi Melocco.

During inclement weather, double the normal distance between vehicles to allow more stopping room. | Photo by Heidi Melocco.

Winter is coming. For some of us, winter is already here! USRider Equestrian Motor Plan reminds everyone who travels with horses to be careful, and to perform routine preventative trailer maintenance to enhance overall travel safety.

Maintain your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s service schedule, and take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic. This is especially crucial for heavy-duty vehicles towing precious cargo. Be proactive rather than reactive.

“Yes, it’s cold outside, but you still need to take the time to perform safety checks on your tow vehicle and trailer before traveling,” says Bill Riss, general manager of USRider.

Establish a relationship with a trusted mechanic who’s certified with the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Do this before your vehicle breaks down on the side of the highway while towing your trailer, especially in bad weather. 

  • Invest in snow tires. During winter months, traction tires are recommended. Such tires must have at least one-eighth-inch of tread, and be labeled "Mud and Snow," "M+S," or "All-Season," or have a mountain/snowflake symbol. See your tire dealer to find out which tires are best for your vehicle.
  • Carry chains. Comply with the chain laws in your area and the area you'll be driving through.
  • Top off the tank. Re-fuel when your fuel gauge drops below the halfway mark.
  • Check the weather. Before setting out on a trip, check weather reports, and plan accordingly. In many states, you can dial 511 for travel conditions and road closures. Allow extra time for inclement weather. Be aware of changing conditions. Look ahead, and keep track of the driving conditions in front of you. Actions by other drivers can alert you to problems and give you time to react. Look out for black ice, which is hard to see.
  • Use your headlights. Always drive with your headlights on during inclement weather, even if it isn?t dark. In fact, drive with headlights on any time when trailering, regardless of weather, to increase your visibility
  • Go slow. Follow this rule of thumb: "rain, ice, and snow--take it slow." Slow down even more when approaching curves, ramps, bridges, and interchanges. Avoid abrupt actions, such as quick lane changes, braking, and accelerating.
  • Don't become overconfident. Don't be susceptible to the false security of four-wheel drive. While four-wheel drive may help you go, it won't help you stop.
  • Increase distance. During inclement weather, double the normal distance between vehicles to allow more stopping room.
LED bulbs in traffic lights burn so coolly that snow and ice don't melt off; this can obscure the lights completely, so be extra cautious. Photo by Rene E. Riley

LED bulbs in traffic lights burn so coolly that snow and ice don't melt off; this can obscure the lights completely, so be extra cautious. Photo by Rene E. Riley

  • Brake gently. Stopping on snow or ice without skidding and/or jackknifing takes extra distance. Use brakes very gently to avoid skidding. If you begin to skid or jackknife, ease up on the brake, and steer into the skid to regain control.
  • Turn off cruise control. Avoid using cruise control on snowy, icy, or wet roads to help maintain control of your vehicle.
  • Watch for snowplows. Take extra precaution around snow-removal equipment. In some cases, the operator?s vision may be reduced. Give operators plenty of room, staying at least 200 feet behind them.
  • Use caution at wintry intersections. Cities across the United States are replacing their incandescent traffic lights with new, energy-efficient LED traffic signals. While these new signals provide brighter lights that last much longer and save a lot of energy, the bulbs burn so coolly that snow and ice don't melt off. Instead, they can just accumulate on the light, which can obscure it completely. If you can't see a traffic light at an intersection, treat it as a stop sign.

For additional safety tips, visit the USRider website and go to the Travel Safety Area.