How to handle winter driving

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

As many of us take to the roadways to visit family and friends for the holidays, we urge one and all to take extra precautions when driving on snowy, icy, or slick roads.

Before leaving home, find out about the driving conditions and remove any snow on your vehicle's windows, lights, brake lights, roof and signals. Make sure you can see and be seen.

Check your vehicle's tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses. A breakdown is bad on a good day and dangerous on a bad-weather day.

Leave plenty of time to reach your destination safely.

Always wear your seatbelt and properly restrain children in the back seat of a vehicle. Slow down and proceed with caution, and PLEASE do not text or talk on your cell phone while driving!

The faster you're going, the longer it will take to stop. When accelerating on snow or ice, take it slow to avoid slipping or sliding. It takes extra time and extra distance to bring your car to a stop on slick and snowy roads. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.

When driving on ice and snow, do not use cruise control and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers. When merging into traffic, take it slow. Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to slide.

Be aware of what's going on well ahead of you. Actions by other vehicles will alert you to problems more quickly, and give you that split-second of extra time to react safely. Roads that seem dry may actually be slippery -- and dangerous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas -- all are hot spots for black ice.

When driving on snow and ice, go slowly, no matter what type of vehicle you drive. Even if you have an SUV with four-wheel drive you may not be able to stop any faster, or maintain control any better, once you lose traction. If in a skid, turn the steering into the skid, easing off the accelerator but not breaking suddenly.

Be careful when driving on bridges and overpasses. Elevated roadways are the first roadways to freeze in winter conditions such as snow, sleet or ice.

If stranded or stalled, stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Equip each vehicle with a winter storm kit that includes blankets, a flashlight, cell phone with charger and extra batteries, a shovel, first-aid kit, non-perishable food, extra warm clothes, water container and more.

Please practice these proper safety precautions before and while you drive in winter weather.