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Editorial: Winter driving safety

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Already into this early winter, we have seen a few winter weather events, more than we saw all of last winter.

The Christmas Day snow left six to eight inches in some areas, and the state and city road crews did an excellent job keeping the roads clear.

As these weather events tend to run in cycles, it's worth reviewing some safety tips dealing with driving during winter weather. Here are some tips offered by AAA via the Automotive Research Center.

* Stay informed: Before you hit the road, know where traffic congestion or collisions might be located. If possible, avoid these areas and continue to monitor traffic reports.

* Keep it full: Keep your car's gas tank full for emergencies and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

* Communicate: Let someone know your destination, route, cell phone number and your expected arrival time.

* Battery: At zero degrees Fahrenheit, a car's battery loses about 60 percent of its strength. At 32 degrees, a battery is 35 percent weaker. Keeping battery terminals clean helps, but a test performed by an automotive technician will help determine a car's battery's strength

* Tires: Make sure your car is equipped with tires that are able to handle winter weather. Check the tire tread. Good tread allows water to escape from under the tires and increases traction. Keep tires at proper pressure. A chart with the manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure can be found on the driver side door jamb, inside the glove box or on the fuel filler flap.

* Windows, lights and mirrors: Danger must be visible to be avoided. Driving with a snow-covered or fogged-up windshield, windows, side-view mirrors or lights invites a crash. Clear windows, mirrors and lights with an ice scraper, brush or spray de-icer. Make certain windshield wipers and defrosters are in good working order and the window washer reservoirs are filled with no-freeze windshield washer fluid. To make sure your vehicle is seen by other drivers, be sure to use your headlights. Keep headlights and taillights working and lenses clean.

* Engine temperature: Make certain cooling system antifreeze is mixed with an equal portion of water for maximum protection.

* Degrees of slick: In temperatures at or just above 32 degrees, a thin layer of water can cover the ice, causing extremely slippery conditions. The distance needed to stop on ice at 32 degrees is twice as long as at zero degrees. Slow down, and use extra caution when passing other vehicles.

* Steer clear: Steering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 mph when the road may be icy, because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. Sudden braking often leads to skids. Increase following distance. The extra distance provides a buffer in case of skids.

Please be safe while driving this winter.


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