Submitted by AAA of Western and Central New York
A winter storm watch is in effect in Buffalo, while snow is forecasted for Rochester and Syracuse later this week. AAA has tips for drivers to stay safe amid wintry conditions.
AAA Offers Winter Driving Advice
Winter weather is in the forecast, and AAA has tips to keep everyone safe on the roads. About 46% of crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter, making this the worst time of year for driving in treacherous conditions.
AAA’s top three winter driving tips include slowing down, increasing space between yourself and other vehicles, and braking, then turning.
Additional important notes: Stay with your car and remain calm, should you find yourself in an emergency situation. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911. If you get stranded in your car, keep your tailpipe clear of snow to ensure proper ventilation, and keep your window cracked open a bit until help arrives.
•Tips for driving in the snow:
√ Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
√ Increase following distances. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to 10 seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
√ Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold braking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
√ Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads may only result in spinning your wheels. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
√ Don’t stop going up a hill. It’s difficult to move up a hill on an icy road. If possible, get your vehicle moving on a flat roadway first before taking on a hill.
√ If possible, stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can.
Winter Driving: What NOT to Do
•Don’t continue at the same speed you would be traveling in clear, dry conditions.
√ Rain, snow and ice can dramatically reduce your tires’ traction.
√ Drivers should slow down to regain the traction that is lost due to the weather.
•Do not brake and turn at the same time or be rough with your steering/braking.
√ Asking your vehicle to do two things at a time makes it more likely that your tires will lose traction.
√ Brake first, then turn, then accelerate.
√ If you’re not gentle with steering, acceleration and braking, your vehicle’s balance can be negatively affected, increasing the chance of experiencing a skid.
√ Always steer, accelerate and brake smoothly.
√ Slamming on the brakes can make the skid even worse.
√ If skidding, continue to look and steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go.
•Don’t follow behind other vehicles as closely as you would when driving in clear, dry conditions.
√ Slick roads mean your vehicle cannot slow down as quickly.
√ Increase following distances to a minimum of five to six seconds.
√ Always keep open space to at least one side of your vehicle, in case you need make an emergency lane change maneuver.
What to Do if You Get Stuck
√ Clear a path in front of your wheels for several feet by driving forward and backward or shoveling.
√ With your wheels pointed straight to minimize rolling resistance, shift to "drive" (or second gear for manual transmissions) and apply gentle pressure to the accelerator, without spinning the wheels. If you let the wheels spin, you will only dig deeper into the snow.
√ If you need more traction, use traction mats, kitty litter, or one of the abrasive materials that you included in your emergency winter driving kit. Do not let anyone stand directly ahead or behind the drive wheels.
√ If you are still stuck, rock your vehicle out of the rut by applying the accelerator slowly in low gear, releasing when you stop moving forward, and re-applying when you stop rolling backward. Repeat in rapid succession using minimum power to avoid spinning wheels.
√ Try to avoid driving when visibility is poor. If you must drive, keep your speed low, use your low-beam headlights, and pull off to a safe spot if conditions worsen.
Prepare Your Car for Winter
Are you ready to drive in the snow? Is your car? AAA Western and Central New York has compiled some of the best winter car care tips to make sure drivers stay safe this winter season.
•AAA winter car care checklist:
Emergency Road Kit – Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather. The kit should include:
√ Mobile phone preprogrammed with rescue apps and important phone numbers, including emergency services and family members
√ Car charger for the mobile phone
√ Drinking water
√ First-aid kit
√ Nonperishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
√ Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
√ Snow shovel
√ Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)
√ Flashlight with extra batteries
√ Winter window washer solvent
√ Ice scraper with brush
√ Cloths or roll of paper towels
√ Jumper cables
√ Warning devices (flares or triangles)
√ Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
•Automotive service – Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter:
√ Battery and charging system – Have the battery and charging system tested by a qualified technician. AAA members can request a visit from a AAA mobile battery service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops can also test and replace weak batteries.
√ Battery cables and terminals – Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight.
√ Drive belts – Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; replace these belts at 60,000-mile intervals.
√ Engine hoses – Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or excessively spongy-feeling.
√ Tire type and tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best traction. This year, snow tires are in high demand amid a tire shortage, so drivers should purchase tires immediately if needed. All-season tires work well in light to moderate snow conditions, provided they have adequate tread depth. Start shopping for new tires when the tread depth reaches 4/32 of an inch, and replace any tire whose tread is worn to 2/32 of an inch or less. Uneven tire wear can indicate alignment, wheel balance or suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
√ Tire pressure – Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a tire information sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb.
√ Air filter – Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
√ Coolant levels – Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Be sure to use the type of coolant required by your vehicle. Test the antifreeze protection level annually using an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
√ Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights. Replace any burnt-out bulbs.
√ Wiper blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In snowy areas, consider installing one-piece “beam type” wiper blades or special winter blades with a rubber cover over the frame. Both will reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.
√ Washer fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that is formulated to prevent it from freezing.
√ Brakes – If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.
√ Transmission, brake and power steering fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.