Chief: Proper Preparations Make Winter Driving Safer
Inspecting your tires and keeping your gas tank close to full are among the measures you can take before driving in wintry weather.
As evidenced by last week’s snow storm, winter is here. In the weeks to come, winter will show its true colors with colder weather, snow covered roads, ice patches and the host of other problems associated with winter storms. Winter driving can be hazardous and scary, especially in the northeast. Additional preparations at this time of year can help make a trip safer and help motorists deal with a winter emergency. The Grafton Police Department would once again like to provide the following suggestions from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on safe winter driving:
Regardless of the season, you should inspect your tires at least once a month and always before embarking on a long road trip. It only takes about five minutes. If you find yourself driving under less than optimal road conditions this winter, you’ll be glad you took the time.
Every vehicle handles somewhat differently. This is particularly true when driving on wet, icy or snowy roads. Take time now to learn how to best handle your vehicle under winter driving conditions. Practice for cold weather driving conditions – but not on the main road. Practice in an empty lot in full daylight where there are no obstructions and plenty of room to maneuver.
During winter weather, be sure to drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop a vehicle on icy or snow-covered surfaces. On the road, be sure to increase your following distance so you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
Make sure you know what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to use them properly. In general, if you have anti-lock brakes, apply firm pressure. If you have non anti-lock 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. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.
Be sure to plan your travel route. Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather. Make sure to check the weather forecasts, road conditions and traffic reports. Allow plenty of time to reach your destination so you don’t have to rush. Make sure you let others know your travel route and anticipated arrival time.
Keep your gas tank close to full. If you get stuck in traffic or in the snow, you might need more fuel to get home or keep warm. Remember, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when stuck in the snow, be sure to keep your vehicle’s exhaust pipe clear of snow and ice. Run your vehicle only in the open with the windows partially down, and only long enough to keep warm.
Remember to carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving tasks such as cleaning off your windshield – as well as supplies you might need in an emergency. Some of these supplies should include a snow shovel, broom and ice scraper, abrasive material such as sand or cat litter in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow, jumper cables, flashlight and warning devices such as flares and markers. You might also want to stock blankets, water, food and any necessary medicine in case of long trips. Naturally, having a fully charged cell phone on hand is always an excellent idea. It is also prudent to have a cell phone car charger in case your cell phone battery is not fully charged.
Finally, if you are stopped or stalled in stormy weather, remember to stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself. Put bright markers on the antennae or car windows and keep the interior dome light turned on. Keep your car running just long enough to stay warm and remember to keep the exhaust pipe clear and the windows partially open when the car is running to avoid asphyxiation.
(These and other tips may be found at http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety)
Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Rd., Grafton, MA 01519. You may also email your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons.
Normand A. Crepeau, Jr.
Chief of Police