Winter Driving Agenda:
Plan Carefully and Be Prepared While Vacationing
Punishing snow and ice storms humble even the most confident drivers. It should also
teach travelers that safe winter driving requires careful advance planning and an
extraordinarily high degree of preparedness. Here's what you should do to drive
comfortably and safely this winter.
PREPARE YOUR CAR
Before you depart on a winter trip, make sure your car is in good mechanical condition
Ask your repair shop to inspect the hoses and belts as well as the electrical, exhaust
and coolant systems. Test your headlights, turn signals and flashers. Make sure the
seat belts and wiper blades operate properly. Change the oil and oil filter every 3,000-
6000 miles and rotate the tires on schedule. Check the inflation on
your spare tire and keep your container of windshield washer fluid
full, preferably with a product which contains an antifreeze to de-ice
CHECK YOUR BATTERY
Pay particular attention to your car battery because it is a common cause of on the road
problems. Today's batteries don't require water, but make sure that the terminals ends
are clean and free of corrosion and that the cable connections are secure. Carefully
monitor the condition of any battery more than two years old.
Replace any battery more than four years old.
PLAN YOUR ROUTES IN ADVANCE
Joyriding and getting pleasantly lost may be all right in the
summer, but it could be dangerous
In winter. Plot your route--and an alternate--with Mapquest.com, via
the Internet. Print out the results and
supplement your Mapquest directions with a supply of current road
maps. Find out in advance what the weather conditions will be in the
area you will be traveling through. Stick to the
major highways rather than trying short cuts on unfamiliar smaller roads. Calculate your
travel time to include rest stops every two hours, preferably at places with restaurants,
fuel and rest rooms. Make hotel or motel reservations in advance.
Limit your driving to seven or eight hours a day.
MODIFY YOUR DRIVING HABITS
Different winter weather conditions call for different driving strategies.
If you're driving in rainy weather, for example, you can improve your traction by reducing
speed and allowing at least four seconds' stopping distance between you and the car
ahead. To keep your brake linings from getting wet while driving through puddles, put
your left foot lightly on the brake pedal. Once you've cleared the puddle, pump the
break pedal a few times. Driving in ice and snow is a
matter of making sure that the tires make good contact with
the road. To improve traction when starting out, spread sand, salt, or other abrasive
materials in front of or behind wheels. (If you prefer, buy reusable plastic "traction mats" at
an auto-supply store, then store them in your trunk.) When stopping on snowy and icy
roads, slowly ease off on your accelerator and pump your brakes
unless your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes. Abrupt braking in
vehicles without anti-lock brakes causes skids.
In foggy weather, turn on your low-beam headlights. Don't use your
high beams ("the
brights") because they shine directly into the fog and cause glare.
BE READY FOR THE WORST
A basic supply kit--flashlight, jumper cables, flares or reflective triangles, hand tools,
duct tape and gloves--is absolutely essential. But it is not enough protection if your car
is disabled in winter weather.
During the winter months, be sure your trunk is also stocked with a
first-aid kit, matches, candles, fix-a flat products,
a transistor radio, water, extra batteries and blankets. Also pack a\ supply of large plastic
garbage bags because they can be worn for protection against the wind. If you own a
cellular phone or citizen's-band radio, bring it along. Either can be used to summon help.
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