Harsh winter weather gives our vehicles a beating whether it’s a dead battery, a blown tire or frozen car lock. Drivers should prepare their vehicles prior to each winter season for use in ice and snow and brush up on how to drive in ice and snow.
Emergency road service calls to AAA, especially for dead batteries and lockouts, always rise sharply when temperatures plummet. Between December 2014 and March 2015, AAA Mid-Atlantic rescued over 750,000 motorists across Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Thirty-nine percent of vehicles required a tow, 29% involved a battery issue and 16% involved a tire-related issue.
Prepare your Vehicle for the Very Cold Weather.
When temperatures are predicted to fall below freezing, motorists need to make sure they have adequate levels of antifreeze, a strong battery, and de-icing solution for windows and locks. Vehicles should also have all-weather or winter radial tires with excellent tread. Battery damage is cumulative, so while a weak battery may start on one below-freezing day, it may not during a string of them.
Emergency Road Kit.
AAA Mid-Atlantic urges motorists to keep a winter weather kit in their car. Kits should include a blanket, ice scraper, flares/reflective triangles, flashlight with batteries, jumper cables, bag of abrasive material such as cat litter, shovel, cloth/paper towels, and a fully charged cell phone. Check tires, wiper blades and car batteries before hitting the road.
De-Icing A Car.
Keep an extra ice scraper in your home should your ice scraper become frozen in the vehicle overnight. De-icing fluid should also be kept indoors should your door locks become frozen. Remove snow and ice from your car before leaving home to improve visibility and to make your car lighter and more responsive.
When To Drive.
If conditions are icy, motorists should stay off the roads until road crews have treated the roads for ice, and then not until conditions are favorable for driving. Nearly one-quarter of weather related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, resulting in more than 1,300 deaths and 116,800 people injured annually, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Do Not Use Cruise Control and Avoid Tailgating.
Normal following distances of three to four seconds for dry pavement should be increased to eight to 10 seconds when driving on icy surfaces. This extra time provides for extra braking distance should a sudden stop become necessary. Stay in the clearest lane; avoid changing lanes and driving over built-up snow. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface.
Know When to Brake and When to Steer.
Some driving situations require abrupt action to avoid a crash or collision; in winter conditions the decision to steer or brake can have very different outcomes. When traveling over 25 MPH, AAA recommends steering over braking to avoid a collision in wintry conditions, as less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of vehicle control.
However, sometimes steering is not an option. Braking on slippery surfaces requires you to look further ahead and increased following and stopping distances. Plan stopping distances as early as possible and always look 20-30 seconds ahead of your vehicle to ensure you have time and space to stop safely. Shaded spots, bridges, overpasses and intersections are areas where ice is likely to form first and will be the most slippery. It is important to adjust your braking habits as road conditions change.
Stay in Control Through a Skid.
Even careful drivers can experience skids. When a vehicle begins to skid, it’s important to not panic. Continue to look and steer in the direction the car needs to go. Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
Drive Distraction Free.
Drive distraction-free and in the right frame of mind. Looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Enlist your passengers to help to carry out activities that would otherwise distract you from driving safely.