Basic safety precautions can reduce many of the dangers of winter travel
BOISE – (February 23, 2018) – After a mild start to the season, Idahoans were recently reminded that the winter’s not over yet. Wet, cold weather could still put drivers to the test in the coming days and weeks. That’s why AAA provides time-tested safety tips to weather the storm.
“We’ve had much-needed relief from last year’s snowpocalypse, so it’s only natural that some of our winter driving skills may be a bit rusty,” said AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. “It’s a great opportunity to go over the safety basics that can help prevent a routine travel situation from turning into a potential emergency.”
When the white stuff falls, Idahoans face reduced visibility, freezing precipitation, and slick surfaces – all of which can lead to property damage and injury. Snow fell across portions of Southern and Eastern Idaho earlier this week, and most of the state yesterday. More snow could arrive over the weekend in many parts of the Gem State.
AAA offers the following tips to help drivers prepare for winter travel:
- Assess possible risks by reviewing weather and road conditions before hitting the road.
- Have your battery and electrical system tested. Batteries have an average life of three to five years. Have your battery tested when it’s three years old, and annually thereafter. AAA members can schedule a complimentary inspection at a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
- Practice makes perfect. “Consider taking teens to a large, empty parking lot where they can safely practice their driving skills in snowy and slick conditions,” Conde suggested. “When teens face winter driving conditions, it’s important that they avoid feelings of panic.”
- Check your windshield wipers and washer fluid levels. Immediately replace wipers that fail to clear all moisture with a streak-free finish. Maintain a full reservoir of washer fluid, with antifreeze properties.
- Inspect tires and brakes. Tires with less than 4/32” of tread will have reduced traction in wet and snowy conditions. Put a quarter in the tread. If you can see the top of George Washington’s head, it’s time to start thinking about replacing the tire. In addition, make sure tires are properly inflated, and check for signs of uneven wear.
- Plan ahead for reduced traction. A bag of sand or kitty litter can work wonders when the roads are too slick to get a car moving. Keep tire chains with you as well.
- Pack food, water, and additional warm clothing for the trip. AAA recommends an emergency kit with these and other supplies, such as a first-aid kit, jumper cables, a flashlight, basic tools, a cell phone charger, and warning devices such as flares or triangles.
- Have fluid levels inspected. Coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid and engine oil should all be checked before travelling long distances or in remote areas.
- Tell friends and family where you’re going and when you plan to arrive. Conde pointed out, “Advance communication can prevent an emergency later, especially when it gets dark and the temperature drops.”
- Watch for potholes. Road surfaces are frequently damaged by freezing conditions and by snowplows clearing the way. At high speeds, potholes can severely damage your wheels.
What to do in a winter weather emergency
AAA provides the following guidance if unexpected events occur during winter driving:
- Stay with your vehicle. It’s much easier for authorities to find you there.
- Deploy emergency signals. Flash your emergency lights. If you don’t have triangles, flares or flashing beacons, tie a bright cloth to your car antenna or side-view mirror to attract attention. Where appropriate, lift the hood to further signal the need for assistance.
- Keep the tailpipe clear. If you need to keep the car running to produce heat, make sure that the exhaust system is clear of snow and other obstructions that could lead to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Use brakes appropriately. Where appropriate, emphasize steering over braking. If you have automatic brakes, press the brake pedal firmly. If you have already lost traction, take your foot off the brake, and downshift to a lower gear to reduce speed and re-establish steering control.
For more great information, including safety checklists and instructional videos, drivers are encouraged to visit aaa.com/winterprep.
“Spring is on the way, but for now, we’re still dealing with the possibility of a winter wonderland,” Conde said. “Let’s do our best to avoid an unfortunate end to an otherwise mild season.”