So winter arrived at your doorstep this week and you had to navigate a challenging route to work or school, or the store. Were you ready for the conditions? The American Automobile Association's Idaho office reported this week that many of us set forth into the winter wonderland without being adequately prepared.
Taking a few precautions will help reduce the risks of crashes and slide-offs and relieve headaches.
Before your trip:
• Clear all windows of snow, ice, or fog before beginning your trip. Clear any snow off the hood; it may come loose and cover your windshield while you’re driving.
• Be sure your tires have enough tread for traction in snow and to reduce the risk of hydroplaning (skidding on pavement because a film of water on the surface causes the tires to lose contact with it) in rain or puddles on the road. Putting extra weight in the trunk or truck bed may give you better traction, but results in some loss of steering control and longer stopping distance
On the road:
• Drive with low-beam headlights in snow or fog. Keep your headlights, stoplights, and turn signals clean. Dirty headlights can cut visibility by 50 percent or more.
• Hold the steering wheel firmly and avoid making sudden turns. Use a light touch to correct a skid.
• Keep at least three times the normal following distance from vehicles in front of you on snow or ice. If you are being followed too closely, maintain extra distance behind the vehicle ahead so that you can slow down or brake gradually. Plan ahead when approaching intersections to brake smoothly.
• Do not blaze your own trail on unplowed roads or through snowdrifts. You may get stuck.
• When you see deer or other animals ahead, slow down and be ready to stop until you are safely past them.
• Watch out for snowplows and sanders as you round corners and curves. Slow down. Plows and sanders will pull over soon to let traffic by. It is risky to pass on the left of a snowplow because of blowing snow. You should NEVER pass a snowplow on the right because plows blow snow in that direction.
In case of trouble:
• Your owner’s manual will usually recommend the braking technique most effective for your car. Information from the National Safety Council indicates that drivers with front- and rear-wheel-drive vehicles with disc or drum brakes should press on the brake pedal with a slow, steady pressure until just before they lock. When you feel them start to lock, ease off until your wheels are rolling, then squeeze again.
• If you hit an unexpected patch of ice, ease up on your accelerator and let your vehicle “roll” through the slippery area.