Get prepared for winter driving

Wood County Safe Communities reported on Friday that there have been nine fatal crashes this year to date, compared to 10 last year at this time.

Safe communities has tips for driving in the winter weathers. Snow, sleet and ice can cause extremely dangerous road conditions.

The basics

Slow down. It’s harder to control or stop a vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. In 2020, there were 119,000 reported crashes that occurred in wintry conditions. Increase following distance enough so that there is plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead.

Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside the truck. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes and exit the road frequently. Stay far enough behind plows and use caution while passing.

What to do in an emergency

Stay with the car and don’t overexert yourself.

Let the car be seen. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light on.

Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of any snow and run the car only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm. Don’t run it for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.

When the temperature drops, so does battery power. In cold weather, gasoline and diesel engines take more battery power to start, and electric and hybrid-electric vehicles’ driving range can be reduced. Have a mechanic check your battery, charging system, belts and for any other needed repairs or replacements.

Get familiar with the safety technologies on the vehicle and how they perform in wintry conditions. Know whether your vehicle has an antilock brake system and learn how to use it properly. Antilock brake systems prevent wheels from locking up during braking. For antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if you feel your wheels starting to lock up.

Check headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights. Be sure to also check trailer brake lights and turn signals, if necessary.

You can quickly go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid in a single snowstorm. Make sure the vehicle’s reservoir is full of high-quality “winter” fluid with de-icer before winter weather hits. Make sure defrosters and all windshield wipers work and replace any worn blades. Consider installing heavy-duty winter wipers if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice.

Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle, and that it meets the manufacturer’s specifications. See your vehicle owner’s manual for recommendations. Check the cooling system for leaks, test the coolant, and drain or replace the old coolant.

You may also want to visit your mechanic for a tune-up and ask them to check for leaks, badly worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.

Stock the vehicle

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, and supplies you might need in an emergency, including:

• snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper

• abrasive material (sand or kitty litter), in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow

• jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices (flares and emergency markers)

• blankets for protection from the cold

• cell phone and charger, water, food and any necessary medicine

Gas up or plug it in

Keep the gas tank close to full whenever possible.

For electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, decrease the drain on the battery. In general, lithium ion batteries have reduced energy at lower temperatures. Additionally, most all vehicle batteries will use battery power for self-heating in low temperatures. The battery drain due to heating can be minimized by keeping your electric vehicle as warm as possible during freezing temperatures. A common way to do this: plug the vehicle in at night during the winter, keeping the battery temperature in its optimal ranges.

Plan the Route

Check local weather and traffic reports before heading out. If your roads are not in good shape, consider postponing non-essential travel until the roads are cleared. If you do have to go out, make sure you are prepared in case you become delayed while traveling. If making a long road trip when winter weather is forecasted, consider leaving early or changing departure to avoid being on the roads during the worst of the storm.

Get familiar with directions and maps — even if you use a GPS — and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time. On longer trips, plan enough time to stop to stretch, get something to eat, check your phone, and change drivers or rest if you feel drowsy.

Avoid risky driving behaviors

Do not text or drive distracted, obey posted speed limits and always drive sober. Alcohol and drugs can impair safe and responsible driving by affecting things such as coordination, judgment, perception and reaction time. Always wear a seat belt.