The frigid temperatures these past few days is a reminder us that winter driving conditions are here. We’ve been lucky to have dry road conditions, so ice has only been a factor in some areas. AAA urges everyone to get prepared for winter driving conditions by packing a winter driving kit and freshen up on how to drive in poor conditions.
Dangerous winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. About 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter.
AAA handles an average of 12,000 emergency roadside assistance calls per week during the winter in Washington, the most common problems being dead batteries, extractions, towing and flat tires. If you haven’t done so already, give your vehicle a quick look for cracked hoses, good fluid levels and low tire tread. Winter is hard on batteries, an automotive technician can quickly test your battery and members can call AAA for battery test, boost or replacement on the spot.
One of the best things you can do in case of an emergency is pack a winter driving kit that includes:
- Bag of abrasive materials such as sand or cat litter for gaining traction in snow and ice
- Snow shovel
- Flashlight with new batteries
- Gloves and warm coat
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Jumper cables
- Warning flare or triangles
- Cellular phone and charger
- Food and water, don’t forget pets
- First aid kit
- Basic tool kit
To stay safe when driving during winter conditions, AAA recommends:
- Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
- Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Increase your following distance. Allow five to six seconds of following distance between your vehicle and any vehicle in front of you. This space allows you time to stop safely if the other driver brakes suddenly.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. Don’t pump the brakes.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
It’s always a good idea to check weather forecasts, traffic reports and road conditions so you can give yourself extra time to get to your destination and not be surprised by the weather or road conditions.