Snow season is suddenly here, and Connecticut’s weather is full of surprises. With some of our driving safety statistics going in the wrong direction (we had a 13% rise in traffic deaths from 2017 to 2018), it makes sense to stay prepared for wintry road conditions every day from now until well into April.

Perhaps the most important skill residents and visitors can have in the coming season is to get ready and stay that way. As Connecticut’s most famous poet wrote, one must have a mind of winter. Here are some suggestions for keeping yourself focused on driving safety this winter.

Stay Home

AAA’s lead winter driving tip is to stay home. Especially while the snow is flying and roads are still unplowed, deciding if driving is necessary is the most effective safety strategy.

Winter driving is winter thinking behind the wheel

Winter means less traction between cars and roads, and at times driving a car can be a little like piloting a boat. AAA says to accelerate slowly, think ahead, and slow down gradually.

Keeping maximum speed slower than at other times of the year gives drivers time to react and allows the tires to grip the road.

The six-second rule for following distance keeps the mind on the road and on plenty of time to stop. Your car should pass a roadside landmark like a mailbox or sign no sooner than six seconds after the car in front of you.

Getting and staying aware of your vehicle

Of course, having good tires and a car with a profession winter bill of health will help you keep from getting stuck in a rut or in a vehicle breakdown.

AAA recommends “know your brakes” by keeping a heal on the floor and breaking firmly but steadily with the ball of your foot. Stomping on the break can lead to losing control.

Connecticut hills need strategic thinking in winter

AAA discourages drivers from stopping while going up a hill. This can lead to getting stuck and can turn into a trap that is tricky and dangerous to escape.

The auto association also say not to “power up” a hill, since gassing the engine just spins the wheels. Getting a little speed before coming to the hill can help get the car up and over and then gradually slow down on the other side.