By Chrystal Johnson
(Wampsville, NY – Feb. 2013) Winter driving can be hazardous, especially in places like New York that get a lot of snow and ice. Being prepared can help make a trip safer or help motorists deal with an emergency. Please help us spread safe winter driving messages by sharing these tips with drivers.
Keep your car well-maintained
* Have your battery checked.
* Make sure your cooling systems are in check.
* Fill your windshield washer fluid reservoir.
* Check your windshield wipers and defrosters to make sure they are working properly.
* Make sure floor mats are secured to prevent pedal interference.
* Inspect your tires and check their age.
Practice cold-weather driving
* Until you’ve sharpened your winter weather driving skills and know how your vehicle handles in snowy conditions, it’s best to practice in an empty parking lot in full daylight.
* Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
* Know what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to use them properly. In general, if you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure. If you don’t have antilock brakes, pump the brakes gently.
* If you find yourself in a skid, stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. Stay off the pedals (gas and brake) until you are able to maintain control of your vehicle. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.
Plan your travel and route
* Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather. Check the weather, road conditions and traffic.
* Plan to leave early if necessary.
* Keep your gas tank close to full; if you get stuck in traffic or in snow, you might need more fuel to get home or keep warm.
Stock your vehicle
* Carry items in the trunk of your vehicle to handle common winter driving tasks, like cleaning off your windshield.
* Clear the snow off all of your windows before driving.
* It’s a good idea to have supplies such as a snow shovel, ice scraper, blankets, jumper cables and a flashlight on hand in case of an emergency.
Learn what to do in a winter emergency
* If you are stopped or stalled, be sure to stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself.
* Keep your vehicle’s exhaust pipe clear of snow and ice to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Protect yourself and your loved ones
* Always wear your seat belt and make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up, as well.
* Don’t text or engage in any other activities that may distract you while driving.
* Never leave children unattended in or around your vehicle.
* While thick outerwear will keep your children warm, it can also interfere with the proper harness fit of your child in their car seat; place blankets around your child after the harness is snug and secure.
For more winter driving tips, visit nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/WinterDrivingTips2012.pdf.
Chrystal Johnson, MS, is a public health educator II, a certified health education specialist and certified child safety seat technician with Madison County Health Department.