Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for automobile travel, according to an AAA news release. Extreme cold temperatures make vehicles more likely to break down if proper maintenance has not been performed, and heavy snow falls and icy road conditions can lead to vehicles sliding off the road and becoming stuck in the snow.
AAA predicts that this November and December, more than 100,000 stranded motorists will call its roadside assistance customer service centers for vehicle extrication services. In 2004, AAA responded to 90,463 calls for the same service.
To keep drivers from becoming one of these statistics, AAA recommends the following tips before hitting the roadway:
- Watch weather reports prior to any long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination, and estimated time of arrival.
- Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
- Pack a cellular telephone with the telephone number of your motor club, blankets, gloves, boots, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
- If you become snowbound, stay with your vehicle. It provides excellent temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don't try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
- Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include placing floor mats, newspapers or paper maps between yourself and your clothing.
- Run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
If you must drive while road conditions are snowy or icy, here are tips for a safer drive:
- Familiarize yourself with your vehicle's braking system. Your owner's manual will provide information about your braking system. Find out which type of brakes your vehicle uses and then follow the safety steps below:
- Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) offer significant advantages on slick roads, if used correctly. To operate ABS effectively, motorists should apply steady pressure to the brake pedal during the entire stop. ABS will automatically pump the brakes. Apply brake pressure, if necessary, keeping the wheels from locking. Never pump ABS brakes. Apply steady pressure until you come to a complete stop.
- If you don't have ABS, you should gently apply and release pressure to your brakes, without locking the brakes. Do not apply steady pressure to your brakes. Standing on your brakes will cause wheel lock, and may result in your car spinning out of control.
- Always maintain adequate distance from vehicles in front of you. The distance needed to stop on ice is twice as long as that you would need to brake under normal driving circumstances. You should keep up to an eight-second following distance behind the vehicle in front of you.
Recognize Danger Zones
Intersections — Slow down before reaching an intersection. Scan all directions for cars and pedestrians. If you're having trouble, they most likely are too. After a stop, accelerate slowly to get moving again.
Hills — When approaching an icy hill pick a path that will allow the most traction. Head for unpacked snow or powder where you'll get a better grip. Build speed gradually before reaching the hill.
Curves — Reduce speed before entering a curve. Any sudden acceleration or deceleration while turning may cause a skid. Controlled speed and smooth steering will help prevent wheels from skidding on a turn. If tires lose their grip, release pressure from accelerator, stay off the brake and turn your front wheels to the direction you want to travel.
Getting Out of a Sticky Situation
The simplest thing to remember when extricating a vehicle from snow and ice is to use finesse rather than power. Hard acceleration is likely to worsen the situation by causing the tires to dig the car deeper into the snow. AAA Chicago recommends first clearing snow away from the tires. To improve traction, spread sand, cat litter or some kind of abrasive material around the drive wheels. Then, shift the car into low gear and slowly apply pressure to the accelerator.
Watch for black ice on the roads. Black ice commonly forms on roads that wind around lakes and rivers, in tunnels, on overpasses and in highly shaded, rural areas. Black ice is almost invisible to the naked eye. Be especially cautious when driving your car into shaded areas, and slow your vehicle down during your approach. If you are approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Applying pressure to your brakes while on ice will only throw you into a skid.
For more information please visit AAA's Web site at .
SOURCE: AAA Chicago