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Winter weather driving tips offered

Staff Report

Although recent brutal temperatures are forecast to climb this week, winter is far from over and keeping a few tips in mind might mean the difference between safely arriving at your destination rather than having your journey cut short by sliding off the road or being involved in a traffic accident.

According to AAA Hoosier Motor Club, hazardous storms and inclement weather are a factor in more than half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. As a result, it’s important to be overly cautious and prepare accordingly.

“Driving in winter conditions can be challenging,” Greg Seiter, public affairs manager for AAA Hoosier Motor Club, states in a news release received by The Courier-Times. “Black ice, heavy snowfall, roads that have not been cleared of snow and other bad driving conditions can make it more difficult for drivers to control their vehicle and avoid a crash.”

To help keep motorists safe on the road, AAA offers the following tips for driving in winter weather.

Do not tailgate. Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be extended to a minimum of five to six seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time provides additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.

Never use cruise control on slippery roads. If your vehicle hydroplanes or skids, you will lose the ability to regain some traction simply by lifting off the accelerator. It will be harder to recover from the loss of traction if cruise control is active.

Slow down and adjust your speed to the road conditions. Leave yourself ample room to stop. Accelerate, turn and brake as gradually and smoothly as you can.

Don’t slam on the brakes. If your car begins to skid, continue to steer in the direction you want the car to go. Slamming on the brakes will only make your vehicle harder to control.

Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses. Black ice typically forms first in shaded areas of the roadway and on bridges and overpasses that freeze first and melt last. Although the road leading up to a bridge may be fine, the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.

React quickly. Watch the traffic ahead and slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, skidding cars or emergency flashers.

Also, extremely cold temperatures can adversely affect automobiles in many ways. Tire pressure can drop significantly, batteries are likely to be weakened, engine belts can lose a certain amount of flexibility and hoses can be put under a lot of stress.

Before a big chill, make sure your gas tank is filled up at least half way to avoid fuel line freeze-up issues.

Check your tires to ensure they’re properly inflated.

Spray WD-40 or another general purpose lubricant into key holes to help prevent frozen locks.

Fight the urge to wash your automobile; lingering water will freeze in your car’s locking mechanism and may even make it difficult to open doors.

Pack your vehicle with an emergency kit that includes things such as non-perishable food items, blankets and extra clothing, a first-aid kit, abrasive material such as sand, salt or cat litter, windshield washer deicer fluid and a snow brush/ice scraper.

If you encounter frozen locks, spray WD-40 or another deicing fluid from a warm can directly into the lock. Cup your hands together and blow warm air directly into the key holes. Do not force a key or other instrument into a frozen lock. Never pour hot water on or into a frozen lock.

Windshield wiper blades that streak should be immediately replaced.

Your automobile’s washer reservoir bottle should be kept full of anti-freezing washer solvent.

To help prevent damage to your wiper blades and motor, make sure windshield wipers are free of ice and snow and turned off before starting your car’s engine.

When allowing your vehicle’s engine to warm up, never do so in an enclosed area and never leave a vehicle unattended with the engine running.