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Prevent Accidents Helping family prevent accidents before they happen
Safety on the Road

Dealing with the weather

Nothing spoils a road trip faster than a weather-related accident, whether it’s a simple fender-bender, a slide into a shallow ditch, or a 5-car chain collision on wet roads. Weather affects driving year around, but its presence is most severely felt in the winter. So, be prepared:

  • Winterize your vehicle. Get a tune-up and be sure to check the battery levels in your vehicle. Consider buying snow tires or chains for the tires, as your travel dictates (Chains work best on glare ice, be sure to check with local authorities; some areas prohibit their use).
  • Check for and change burned-out headlights, tail lights and turn signals; check tire tread and wear – minimum tread is 1/16" for adequate traction. Make sure brakes are in proper working order, keep spare window washer fluid in the trunk and make sure the washer blades are in good working condition.

Prepare a winter emergency kit for your car(s). Include:

  • Blankets (at least two) or a sleeping bag. Flashlight/lantern and extra batteries, and road flares. Booster (jumper) cables.Extra clothing (boots, hats and mittens.) Rope and steel shovel.Bottled water or juice, nonperishable high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins, crackers, etc. First-aid kit.Tire repair kit and pump. Ice scraper with snow brush. Cell phone with its car charger.And a bag of sand or non-clumping cat litter for traction if you get stuck in snow.

Stay tuned to weather reports, and allow driving time for bad weather and/or traffic delays. Know your vehicle’s winter weather operating characteristics. Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel vehicles on slippery roads because the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels, improving traction.

Keep your windows clear of snow and ice. Clean head, tail and brake lights, too. Keep your gas tank at least half full. Fill the tank before you park for lengthy periods. This will help prevent fuel line freeze-up. Remember, if you need to turn on your wipers, you need to turn on your headlights.

Bridges become slippery before roads, so drive with extreme caution during freezing temperatures. Leave ample stopping time between you and the driver in front of you. Braking distance can be up to nine times greater on snowy, icy surfaces than on dry roads.

If your vehicle is equipped with an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), be sure to firmly depress the brake pedal, stay on the brakes (do not pump them). Steer where you want the vehicle to go.Gently pump non-ABS brakes to stop. Take any corrective action gradually, to help you maintain full control of the vehicle.

Supply those at your destination with your cell phone number, departure time, travel route and anticipated arrival time.

If you get stranded …
Remain with the vehicle, so that if nothing else, you are guaranteed shelter. Other helpful tips include:

  • Tie a bright-colored cloth to the car’s antenna, driver door handle or outside mirror.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow to prevent poisonous gases from filtering into the vehicle.
  • Run the engine and heater no more than 10 minutes every hour, leaving a downwind window slightly open for ventilation.
  • Light a flare or turn on a flashlight to let others know you’re stranded.
  • Use floor mats, seat covers and blankets for added warmth.
  • If you must leave the car during a severe snow storm or blizzard, tie a line of rope or cord to yourself and the vehicle to avoid becoming lost or disoriented.
  • Keep bottled water in your emergency kit or vehicle.
  • Never eat snow. It will chill you and lower your body temperature.
  • Remain calm. Chances for rescue are better if you remain calm and in your vehicle.

In the summer, remember that hot weather and under-inflated tires are a dangerous combination. A tire industry survey found 85 percent of drivers fail to properly check tire pressure. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that crashes associated with tire problems take approximately 660 lives each year and injure 33,000 people.

NHTSA urges drivers to check tire pressure and tread wear often, but especially during the hot summer months when overloaded vehicles, under-inflated tires, and hot weather can all combine to ruin a simple drive. Properly maintained tires improve the steering, stopping, traction and fuel economy of your vehicle; underinflated tires or worn treads are a major cause of failure.

For proper care of your tires and procedures to check the air pressure and treads, go online to www.safercar.gov.

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