Prepare for Winter Driving

IMAGEWinter may bring a beautiful, glistening white blanket of fresh snow ready for snowmen and sledding. The season for snow and ice can also be the season for traffic accidents, but you do not have to be a victim of winter storms. You can reduce your risk of an accident by preparing your vehicle, learning how to react if you are driving in slippery conditions, and knowing what to do if you are stranded or lost on the road. Here are some tips that can help.

Before the Winter Flurries

Have a mechanic check the following items in your car:
  • Battery
  • Antifreeze
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights
  • Flashing hazard lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Heater
  • Brakes
  • Defroster
  • Oil level (if necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil or the SAE 10w/30 weight variety)

Before You Hit the Road

Install Good Winter Tires

Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some areas require that vehicles be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.

Prepare a Winter Car Kit to Keep in Your Car

Must-haves for the Car
  • Windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal
  • Small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels
  • Set of tire chains or traction mats
  • Booster/jumper cables
  • Flares
  • Small shovel
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Small tools—pliers, wrench, screwdriver
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
Must-haves for Passengers
  • A cell phone to call for help. Be sure to have a cell phone charger in the car.
  • Extra set of mittens, socks, and a wool cap
  • Several blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Bottled water
  • Necessary medications
  • Canned fruit and nuts (Choose cans with pull tabs or screw on caps.)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Matches and a lighter
  • Extra newspapers for insulation
  • Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  • Cards, games, and puzzles

Other Helpful Hints

  • Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going.
  • Plan long trips carefully. Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions. Always travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person.
  • Let others know where you are going and what route you plan on taking.
  • Stay on main roads. Avoid back roads and shortcuts.
  • Dress warmly and wear layers of loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing.
  • If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation.
Current driving conditions can often be found on many individual state's department of transportation website. You can also call 5-1-1 for updated national traffic information.

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