| 03.19.2018

On the road again — Christmas break is around the corner and it’s time to drive home safely


All drivers are guilty. Guilty of not using the blinker while changing lanes, cutting off a car or driving past a red light.

The ultimate nemesis: parallel parking awkwardly and hitting the curb with the rear tire — or another vehicle.

Drivers come in a variety of packages — slow drivers who don’t want to add anxiety to their day by rushing to a destination, fast drivers living on the edge and enjoying the ride and in between this spectrum are typical drivers.

I lean more toward a speeder, changing lanes and saving myself a whole two seconds. However, I’ve learned to let off the gas pedal rather than obsess about getting somewhere in a timely manner.

It’s hard to focus on post-finals while my mind is completely engrossed in projects, studying and tests, but most students are ready to drive home to enjoy Christmas break.

Before hitting the road, here are a few tips to make the trip home easier.


Before starting that ignition, basic equipment like a scraper, a car jack and a mini tool kit can be lifesavers.

My friend’s Ford Fusion tire flattened on the loneliest road — Highway 50. He forgot to bring his car jack on the trip. We ended up hitching a ride to a town to buy a car jack. Needless to say, my friend drives around with two car jacks now.

Winter basics

Winter is a different creature, where every vehicle becomes the enemy as roads become slippery. Bring along some comforts and precautionary items such as a first-aid kit, mini tool box, blanket, tire chains and cat litter. Cat litter or sand bags are important because tires can easily become stuck and make a car immobile.

Four inches of snow trapped my sedan right alongside a street. The powder was beautiful but the ultimate enemy to my punctuality. A neighbor came to help — I swear he was from “Baywatch” or something — who turned out to be a fireman. The car failed to budge so the fireman ran into his house and came out with cat litter. I was puzzled until he placed the cat litter under the tire and drove my vehicle out of the pothole. #hotguyrescue

Prepping for a road trip

Until self-driving cars come around, there are extra precautions to take before driving. Make sure your car is packed and ready. Think of this equipment as a survival kit for the apocalypse when the tire decides to deflate.

Check that the windshield wipers work flawlessly, with no clump of leaves or ice build-up. The biggest pain while driving is realizing the windshield wipers are only contributing to blindness.

Have a “designated-texter,” a friend to text family that the road trip has commenced and to update them along the way.

Check headlights, brights and blinkers. It would be bad if the headlights went out during a road trip at night and only your brights are working. Also, turn your brights off when there’s oncoming traffic. Don’t be a dick.

Finally, turn the engine over and wait until it is 1,000 RPM’s or below. Once the engine quiets down, fill it up with gasoline and check tire pressure and treads. Cold weather usually releases air from tires, so it is likely that air has escaped.

Road trip

Once bags, car equipment, friends and junk food are in the car, it’s time to hit the road and sing some Christmas tunes.

Tragically, the weather seems to know when I travel. So, keep in mind these driving techniques when dealing with the winter monster.

You are better off driving like a senior — drive cautiously and keep a little extra distance between vehicles.

If a driver only remembers one thing, it’s that the brakes aren’t their friend — specifically in a front-cheel drive vehicle. When roads are clear, brakes are good tools. But when roads are icy, braking can cause accidents.

As a friend was driving past Logan, Utah, through a mountain pass, a blizzard began dumping snow. We took a corner, she pressed on the brakes and the car slid to the edge of the road on a cliff. Her car was only three feet from the edge.

Instead of pressing the brakes at a road corner lightly apply them before turning, and gently press the gas, maintaining a cautious speed.

Know if there are lower gear options in an automatic. Some standard automatics have a second or first gear. If a driver loses traction or control of the vehicle, try shifting it into a lower gear. Change gears at the right speed, which means changing to second gear when driving 30 miles per hour or slower. Don’t shift to second if you’re going 55 mph.

This is an ideal technique when driving on a slippery corner.

Driving rough roads

As the road snakes through a mountain pass, practice straightening out the road. There is a specific way to drive around a corner. Take for instance a driver is about to turn left, closely lean the car toward the outer side of the lane — if you need to slow down, press the brake before turning the wheel and turn the car into the center, painted line. As the car comes out of the corner, let the vehicle lean to the outer lane again. This technique gives the driver more control and better traction while driving.


If a driver loses control of the car on ice, steadily straighten the vehicle out lightly pressing the gas. Do not over correct by sharply turning the wheel or hard pressing the gas or brakes. This can cause further loss in traction.

Don’t rush. Enjoy the trip home. Bring friends or family along, pick out a favorite playlist or listen to a book on tape. Trips can be stressful and annoying, but I’ve made some of the best memories on road trips. So get the gang together, pop in some music and hit the road.

Catherine Keenan can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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