The Problem with Cars at Christmas


Looking at yuletide and seeing problems doesn’t seem quite right but as a car driver, you need to be practical. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder you are much more likely to succumb to drowsiness in your vehicle. This is something all drivers should take seriously.

Starting with Mindset:

We know what you’re thinking, “Bah humbug!”

But knock it off for two minutes and we’ll make it easy for you with a quick list of what might make your commuting more difficult and a couple ideas to make it better.

Instead of thinking like a Grinch, think like a super-hero. Not only are problems more likely, but the situations can become more drastic, more quickly than in other seasons. This is your chance to be the one who’s ready, who makes safety look easy, and who protects the family.


Maybe you are full of holiday cheer. Maybe you love all the fancy decorations you drive past. Maybe you don’t but the person in front of you does. We’ll get back to road conditions in a minute, but it’s important to start off a list like this with the fact that you need more following distance between you and the car in front of you than ever.

Having a flask of hot coffee in the car will also give you a bit of a pick-me-up in a freezing cold day.

It’s not ALL about the Weather:

Many people start getting terrible quality of sleep in the fall. Sunlight, temperature, and activity level all affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Heck, you can sleep too much and become groggier, especially if you’re resorting to a sleep aid.

With the retail season in full swing, most of us are busy at work. Most of us are shopping whenever we can fit it in. AND let’s face it, holiday traffic sucks. Now is the worst time to drive groggy.

This is why it is important to get enough sleep and maybe not work too hard (though this could be easier said than done in the Christmas period). Iron and Vitamin D supplements might help.

Don’t Get Sick:

It’s hard to drive when you’re sick. Running nose, headache, and the dreaded sneeze can really do a number on your ability to operate a car safely. Get lots of sleep (see above), and take vitamin C. Try elderberry extract, ginger tea, and don’t neglect hand washing.

plough-1814954_1920The Effects of COLD Weather:

It might not just be you that’s sluggish in the cold, by the way. Cold makes it harder to start your car in the morning. Believe it or not, this is due to oil being slightly thicker in cold weather and the battery taking slightly longer to react.

The best thing you can do about this is to leave extra time for your journey to start up the engine and scrape your windows. If you do find that you’re getting a late start, just call into work and make amends up front. Most employers we’ve encountered may grumble, but they’d rather have you late than dead.


Some places get fog, others get glint from the sun off ice cycles. The sun comes in at a lower angle and can create a lot of glare…if you live somewhere the sun shines in the winter.

One of the biggest issues we warn of about this time every year is not fully cleaning your windshield. It takes two seconds longer to scrape the whole thing than to try to guess which part you won’t need to see through on your way to work. You may need to apply de-icer to the windscreens and other windows. Chemically speaking, this is known as propylene glycol. The alcohol in the substance is what makes the ice melt.

Road Conditions:

When it comes to de-icing roads this may be done with salt (usually rock salt) spread by dumper truck or snow plow. It may not pure salt – it may be mixed with sand or gravel, or indeed both.

On the west coast, plowing and de-icing are generally done by the state transportation crews. In the Northeast U.S., it’s more common for private individuals to own a plow or attachment to clear roads the community resources don’t get to quickly enough. (One of our writers brags about always trying to buy a house near such an individual so he isn’t late to work in the winters.)

Back to the rock salt on the roads, because it’s not all that reliable, there is a threshold where it will not work at all; the snow will stay on the roads. This is when the temperature goes below -18°C. There are other problems with salt as it is toxic to many plants and animals. This is why calcium chloride or magnesium chloride works better; they create something that has a lower freezing point than salt water.

The best solution in bad weather, or at least the first few days of bad weather, is to work from home. It can create stress of its own, but it beats dying.

If your boss resists letting you work remotely as him/her if you can do it on a trial basis. Then just make sure to make that your most productive day all month. When your boss sees that its safer and more productive you have a 40% chance of doing it again in the next bad weather situation. (BTW in our experience %60 of all bosses are so against remote work that they’d rather you come in late, work slow, and leave early. Yes that’s stupid!)

The problem with remote working is how are you going to do your Christmas shopping? That’s what the internet is for, eh?

The Final Word:

Be sure to carry traction devices and a winter safety kit. You don’t want to break down in the winter with no blanket or flares. Also, make sure to carry a cell phone, even if you just buy some minutes for a pay as you go plan. It’s a good idea to get your car, especially the tires checked before the really bad stuff sets in.


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