Tips for driving in the snow and ice

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Tuesday. Ahead of the snow expected on Tuesday, AAA Mid-Atlantic has some advice for drivers who have to travel in the snow and ice.AAA Mid-Atlantic's Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs Lon Anderson said, "Drivers who must venture out should make sure their vehicles are prepared and to drive cautiously and defensively. Also, keep an emergency kit in the trunk should you run into any problems during your commute as the warning does extend from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m."Other tips for winter driving from AAA:
  • Before starting out in snowy weather, take time to remove the snow from the entire car, so it does not blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors and lights are clean as well.
  • Drive with your low-beam headlights illuminated.
  • When the roads are icy, slow down and allow extra time to reach your destination.
  • Allow sufficient room for maintenance vehicles and plows, stay at least 15 car lengths (200 feet) back and, if you need to pass, go to the other vehicle's left.
  • Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even when the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.
  • If you are stuck in snow, straighten the wheel and accelerate slowly. Add sand or salt under the drive wheels to help avoid spinning the tires.
  • If your tires lose traction, continue to look and steer in the direction you want to go. If the drive wheels start to spin or slide while going up a hill, ease off the accelerator slightly and then gently resume speed.
  • Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.
  • When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of trucks, which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop.
  • Do not use cruise control in precipitation and freezing temperatures.
  • Remember that four-wheel drive helps you to get going quicker, but it will not help you stop any faster.
  • Apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal with anti-lock brakes.
  • Know when to brake and when to steer. Some driving situations require abrupt action to avoid a crash or collision and in winter conditions, the decision to steer or brake can have very different outcomes. When travelling over 25 MPH, AAA recommends steering over braking to avoid a collision in wintry conditions, as less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of vehicle control.
  • Stay in control through a skid. Even careful drivers can experience skids. When a vehicle begins to skid, it is important to not panic. Continue to look and steer in the direction the car needs to go. Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle's balance and make it harder to control.

Of course, before the snow hits you may want to make a few preparations. AAA recommends:
  • keeping your gas tank at least half full
  • wearing "clothing that provides warmth, comfort and freedom from movement. Heavy garments and gloves offer warmth when outside, but after the vehicle's interior is warmed up, they should remove any outdoor clothing rather than compounding a risky situation by struggling out of a heavy coat while driving. A zip-fastened, lined jacket and a pair of thin leather gloves are ideal for winter driving. They give appropriate warmth, comfort and freedom of movement both inside and outside the vehicle with minimal adjustment.
  • keeping a winter weather kit in their car that includes a blanket, ice scraper, flares/reflective triangles, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, bag of abrasive material such as cat litter, shovel, cloth/paper towels, and a fully charged cell phone. Check tires, wiper blades and car batteries before hitting the road.
  • If conditions are icy, AAA Mid-Atlantic is advising motorists to stay off the roads until road crews have treated the roads for ice and then not until conditions are favorable for the commute.