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Winter driving safety tips

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The season of snow, rain, fog, and weather-related auto accidents is upon us. In preparation. motorists should get their vehicles ready and refresh their winter driving skills, according AAA Northern California.

“Although summer auto crashes are more often fatal, fall and winter have the highest number of weather-related crashes, deaths and injuries,” said Matt Skryja, AAA Northern California spokesman. “The combination of poorly maintained vehicles and driver error, along with loss of visibility and slick roads, causes thousands of preventable crashes each year.”

Preparing your vehicle is the first step in improving your chances of safe winter driving, Skryja said.



– Check the systems. Make sure your brakes, defroster, heater, exhaust system, and lights work properly. Change the blades in your wipers and check the level and condition of the antifreeze.

– Inspect the tires. Good tread allows the water to escape from under the tires and increases traction. Keep tires at proper pressure. Low pressure allows the tread to squeeze together and reduces traction. Too-high pressure prevents the tread from contacting the road thoroughly.



– Keep a full gas tank. In winter it may become necessary to change routes, idle for long periods of time, travel slowly, or turn around in a storm. A full gas tank allows you to do these maneuvers without worrying about running out of fuel.

– Keep the windshield and windows clear. Have a snow brush and ice scraper in the vehicle. Clean off the roof of the vehicle and the windows. Use the car’s defroster or a clean cloth to “defog” the inside of the windows.

– Carry an emergency kit. Items to include in the kit are a flashlight, first-aid kit, flares or emergency triangles, window washer fluid, tool kit, blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, paper towels, drinking water, and extra food. Also include abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter, and a small shovel to free the vehicle if it becomes stuck.

– Include chains. Remember, chains must be installed on the “drive” wheels of the vehicle.

– Carry an extra car key. Many motorists lock themselves out of their vehicles when installing chains or attending to weather-related problems.

– Adjust your speed for the weather. SLOW DOWN. Keep in mind that your vehicle needs at least three times more distance to stop on slick roads.

– Increase your following distance. To safely stop, a vehicle needs a minimum of four to eight seconds between it and the vehicle in front.

– Be alert. Learn to “read” road conditions to anticipate a hazard in time to react safely. Bridges, overpasses, and shaded spots are a special danger because ice often forms first in these areas.

– Steer clear of collisions. Learn to take evasive action by steering around a situation to avoid collisions. Steering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 mph because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In winter weather, sudden braking often leads to skids.

– Recognize hydroplaning hazards. Even a small amount of water on the road can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. One-twelfth of an inch of water between your tires and the road means each tire has to displace one gallon of water a second. To reduce the chances of hydroplaning slow down, avoid hard braking or sharp turns, drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you, and increase your following distance.

– React to trouble quickly. If you are in trouble, pull completely off to the side of the road, turn on the hazard lights, light flares or place emergency triangles, signal for help, and stay in the vehicle with your seatbelt on. Call for help on a cell phone. Remember to keep your AAA card handy for these types of emergencies.

Visibility in fog can deteriorate in a moment. The rapid loss of visibility creates serious driving hazards. The following are specific driving tips for fog.

– Drive with lights on low beam.

– Reduce speed.

– Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open windows if necessary.

– Use wipers and defroster for maximum visibility.

– Be patient! Don’t switch lanes unnecessarily.

– Unless absolutely necessary, don’t stop on any freeway or other heavily traveled road.

– If possible, postpone your trip until the fog has lifted.


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