Winter Driving: The Road Safety Tips You Need

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In true St. Louis tradition, we experienced seasons as unpredictable as ever throughout the entire year. In fact, most of the month has felt like fall or, some days, even spring. Not many of us are complaining about a 60-degree December day, but unreliable weather, as well as our high population of drivers, makes road safety crucial for STL residents. From technologies to supplies, the National Safety Council compiled a list of preparations for managing hazardous roads this winter.

1. Check the Weather Before You Go
Err on the side of caution if the forecast looks “iffy.” If you do choose to venture out, share your travel plans with someone. Then find an open area to warm up the car first. In the event that you get stranded, be sure to use flares in order to both check the car for blockage like snow and mud, as well as to alert your location.

2. Prepare Your Car for winter
Keep at least a half-full tank and fresh antifreeze. Understand your vehicle’s safety systems. Have a mechanic review the features that protect you from winter weather, including:
• Ignition
• Brakes
• Wiring
• Hoses and fan belts
• Spark plugs
• Air, fuel and emissions filters, and PCV valve
• Distributor
• Battery
• Tire wear and air pressure
• Antifreeze level and freeze line
3. Know What to Do to Avoid a Crash
Prepare for the unexpected. Limited visibility and road precipitation, for example, increase the risk of crash. Know what to do in surprise situations that cause your vehicle to skid, slide, and encounter another vehicle or object.

In addition to their own list, the National Safety Council provides the following winter driving tips from AAA:

• Never mix radial tires with other types of tires
• If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather
• Do not use cruise control in wintery conditions
• Look and steer in the direction you want to go
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly
• Increase following distance to 8 to 10 seconds
• Know whether you have antilock brakes, which will “pump” the brakes for you in a skid
• If possible, don’t stop when going uphill
• Keep your gas tank at least half-full
• If you do get stranded, don’t try to push your vehicle out of snow
• Signal distress with a brightly colored cloth tied to the antenna or in a rolled up window.
4. Don’t Leave Home without These
You should keep the following emergency supplies handy at all times:

• Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod jack
• Shovel
• Jumper cables
• Tow and tire chains
• Bag of salt or cat litter for better tire traction or to melt snow
• Tool kit
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Reflective triangles or flares
• Compass
• First aid kit
• Windshield cleaner
• Ice scraper and snow brush
• Matches in a waterproof container
• Scissors and string or cord
• Nonperishable, high-energy foods like unsalted, canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
• Blankets, mittens, socks and hats

With these Preparations, You Can Take Charge
According to the National Safety Council, “You are your car’s best safety feature.” Winter driving can create many high-stress situations, but these preparations will help you take charge of your own safety. Stay knowledgeable, practice safe driving, and you can gain peace of mind on the road.
Source: National Safety Council, http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/news-and-resources-winter-your-car-and-you.aspx

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