Take it Slow on Ice and Snow

AAA winter driving tips to get you (and a Christmas tree) home safe

BOISE – With freezing temperatures and snow on the way, AAA is sharing winter driving tips to help reduce the chances of a deadly collision.  Severe weather is a factor in nearly half a million crashes and 2,000 deaths nationwide each year.

“Now is a good time to explore your options for traction control.  Winter and studded snow tires have deep grooves to wick away snow and ice, and they stay soft and flexible even in colder conditions.  Tire chains or tire socks are also great to have when the roads get slick,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “Choose the traction devices that match your winter driving patterns and comfort level.”

Winter driving in Idaho often means traveling through areas of snow, ice, and reduced visibility.  When the weather turns nasty, drivers should reduce speed and increase their following distance to 8 to 10 seconds and avoid sudden stops and starts on hills whenever possible.

“If you’re a little rusty driving on winter roads, you’re not alone,” Conde said.  “Just like when you first learned to drive, find a big empty parking lot to brush up on your skills.”

Winter driving tips

  • Check road conditions before you go. Travel on well-maintained roads whenever possible and consider the skill level of drivers around you who may not be as well prepared.
  • Actively scan the road. Watch for the unexpected, even in familiar places – potholes, downed tree limbs, other vehicles that are sliding, etc.  Give yourself plenty of time to react.
  • Never blindly follow your GPS. If a road doesn’t look maintained, turn around.
  • Ditch the distractions. Calls and texts can wait until you’re parked in a safe location.
  • Show your car some love. Replace windshield wipers as needed, and top off engine fluids.  Select a washer fluid with de-icing properties.  Check hoses for cracks and leaks.  If your battery is three years old or older, ask a local repair shop or auto parts store to test it.
  • Clear away snow from the hood, windows, lights, and roof before you hit the road.
  • Replace tires with less than 3/32” of tread. Try the “quarter test” – turn a quarter upside down in the tread of your tire.  If you can see the top of George Washington’s head, it’s time to think about replacing the tire.
  • If you start to slide, keeping steering in the direction you want to go.
  • Stay calm. If you’re involved in a crash, stay with your vehicle if it’s safe to do so.  Keep your distance from other motorists and use your cell phone to photograph damage and exchange insurance information.  Flash your emergency lights.  If you need to occasionally run the engine to keep warm while you wait for help, make sure the tailpipe is clear.

Safely transporting a Christmas tree

For many Idaho families, a live Christmas tree is an important part of the holiday season.  But AAA research shows that 60% of those who plan to buy a live Christmas tree previously had one fall off or out of their vehicle.  In fact, an improperly secured tree can cause up to $1,500 of damage to your vehicle and could also result in a ticket for littering and vehicle damage or injuries to others.

To keep your tree from taking off like Santa’s sleigh, AAA recommends the following:

  • Use the right vehicle for the job (either a truck with a roof rack, or a pickup or minivan).
  • Bring strong rope or tiedowns, not cheap twine.
  • Ask the lot to wrap the tree in netting if possible.  Cover your roof with an old blanket to protect the paint.
  • Place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck trunk first.
  • Tie the tree in at least three places – bottom, middle, and top.  Then give the tree several strong tugs from various angles to make sure nothing comes loose.
  • Take back roads on the way home if possible.

 For more information, visit AAA.com/winterprep.