Road crews say they’re ready for snow; are you?

November 23, 2018

State and local highway and road departments have been busy in recent weeks telling about how they are stocked up with road salt, have their equipment ready and have done some dry runs on routes.

Their collective message: We’re ready to respond when snow and ice hits this winter to keep driving conditions as safe as possible.

But a pertinent question this time of year is for the motoring public: Are drivers prepared to ratchet up safe driving to a higher gear when snow and ice make driving treacherous?

Too often, it seems, they are not. Each year, it’s as if many motorists have forgotten the steps to take and the caution to exhibit, especially when that first snowfall of the season arrives. It shouldn’t be so hard to convince them to be ready. Common sense would seem to dictate that drivers must make adjustments to reduce the risk of a crash.

But if that’s not enough, consider this data from the Federal Highway Administration. More than 1,300 people are killed and about 117,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually. Of those, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet. About a quarter of all weather-related crashes during a year occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement.

Those should be sobering numbers for all of us to consider.

So people driving under those wintry conditions should keep these tips in mind:

• The first step is to make sure your vehicle is in good condition. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says regular tune-ups and maintenance are the starting point for safe driving year-round. In winter, pay special attention to your vehicle’s battery, wipers, coolant, tires and other systems that can take a beating when the temperature drops. Before each trip, clear your car of snow, ice or dirt from the windows, forward sensors, headlights, tail lights and backup camera.

• 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 wintry conditions.

• Look and steer in the direction you want to go, in particular if your vehicle starts to skid.

• 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.

The primary safety step is to be cautious. Allow extra time to reach your destination. Slow down. Allow plenty of cushion between your vehicle and others on the road. Be alert and watch the traffic around you.

Taking those steps could help save the lives of you and others.

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