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There's no freedom quite like driving. You can hop into your car, put the key into the ignition and just go. Windows down, roads clear, sun high -- there's nothing like it.
Unfortunately, winter driving isn't quite as romantic as a summertime cruise on the open road. Instead of cranking the tunes and putting the pedal to the metal, you have to be more cautious. Ice, slush and extreme temperatures can get in the way of your enjoyable and, more importantly, safe drive to your destination.
It's imperative to prepare for your safest possible drives before winter arrives.
Here are four of the easiest ways to make your vehicle safer -- and yourself a better driver.
1. Prepare Your Ride
With more pleasant driving conditions in summer, you might not notice something wrong with your car's wipers or brakes, for example. You also haven't used your heater in a while, so you might not know it's on the fritz until you actually need it.
Schedule a routine maintenance checkup for your car this fall, ahead of the wintry conditions. Mechanics will make sure everything is in working order and suggest repairs for a winter-ready vehicle.
2. Make a Winter Tool Kit
Spend a weekend afternoon stocking up on the supplies you need to get you from one place to another if it's snowing, icy or otherwise unpleasant on the road. Items like a shovel, sand, a flashlight and an extra sweater might not immediately come to mind, but they'll be useful if you get stuck in the snow and help can't reach you right away.
3. Take It Slow
Perhaps summer road conditions inspire you to drive quickly, and you only slow down when a bit of technology tells you that police officers are near. One of the best tips for safe winter driving is to take it nice and slow, especially as you start off on your voyage.
You can get a feel for the road without overdoing it, and your car can get a better grip on the surface if you drive slower. If your car can't handle the conditions, a lower speed is safer than a high one.
Make it a point to be more cautious with your speed. Don't give in to pressure from other drivers to take it up a notch if you're not comfortable doing so. Make sure you can stop safely -- slow down much farther in advance than you would on a clear road.
4. Warm It Up
There's a bit of debate regarding the merits of letting your car heat up before you get inside. Some experts say it helps the oil liquefy again and lubricate the engine, while others think it's bad for the environment and causes your vehicle to waste fuel.
Regardless of your stance, you should at least warm your car enough to remove the ice and frost from your windows before you start driving. The windshield is obviously the most important, but you should make sure your rear window, side-view mirrors and backseat windows -- the only point through which you can see your blind spots -- are completely clear. This is especially true if your route contains highway driving.
Now, Hit the Road
Living in Harrisburg, you've probably heard this advice time and time again, but there's no harm in letting it sink in once more. The safer you drive, the safer the city's roads will be for everyone. And, once you safely navigate wintry roads, you'll be right back on those cruise-ready, sunshine-filled streets of spring and summer.