Three P’s of winter driving
By Robin Scott
Area residents have had one day of winter weather driving this season, reminding everyone that winter brings with it poor driving conditions. Before ice and snow return, drivers should become familiar with what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls the “Three P’s of winter driving. Prepare, protect yourself and prevent crashes.”
Preparing means to maintain vehicles by checking the battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers, keeping windows clear and filling the washer reservoir with no-freeze fluid, checking or replacing antifreeze and placing a winter weather kit in the trunk. Items considered vital include a flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, even floor mats), shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, warning devices (like flares), blankets and food and water.
If circumstances cause a stop or stall, OSHA warns drivers to stay with their vehicles. Keep something bright handy to attach to the antenna or window so that emergency personnel recognizes the need for assistance. Shining the dome light is another suggestion. Before allowing the vehicle to remain running, check the exhaust pipe to make certain it’s clear, and only run the engine enough to stay warm.
Before heading anywhere, drivers should plan their route ahead of time and know the route before heading out, allowing plenty of time for safe travel. Travelers should advise others of the planned route and anticipated arrival time. Many drivers believe they have enough experience driving in poor weather, or don’t fully understand the difficulties of driving on snowy or icy roadways. It’s a good idea to practice and rehearse maneuvers necessary on wet, snowy and icy roadways.
Winter driving safety tips include steering into a skid, knowing how brakes will respond and remembering to stomp on antilock brakes, but to pump non-antilock brakes. Allow for longer stopping distances on water covered and icy roadways. When idling the vehicle, be sure to ventilate by leaving a window cracked, and don’t idle for long periods with the windows up. Use less tire air pressure during inclement weather and check with the manufacturer for the correct winter tire pressure.
Protecting against disaster means to buckle up and use child safety seats properly. Rear facing child safety seats should never be placed in front of an air bag. Children 12 and under are much safer in the back seat. It also means to dress appropriately and in layers. Keep gallon sized plastic bags in the vehicle to wear over socks and inside shoes if a long delay on the roadway occurs. Keeping feet dry is essential. Always carry head and ear coverings to avoid the loss of body heat.
Preventing crashes always includes never mixing drugs or alcohol with driving. Slow down in inclement weather and increase the distance between vehicles ahead. Avoid fatigue, and remember that cooler weather can bring on drowsiness. For longer trips, stopping at least every three hours is advisable and rotating drivers is encouraged.
All drivers should prepare their vehicles for winter weather, and make sure that they too are prepared in case of a long delay out in the weather. Taking measures ahead of time will protect the driver, passengers and others traveling on the roadways.