By Erie County Clerk Michael P. Kearns
Every start to the winter season, we promise ourselves that this year will be different – that you’ll be ready for whatever blizzard Mother Nature sends us. Yes, presently, our weather this fall season has been without any early winter weather events as in years past. However, our weather can change quickly and we can be hit with snow, ice, rain and fog off Lake Erie without warning.
You are your vehicle’s best safety feature. Therefore, I encourage motorists to take a moment to review a few simple winter driving tips and double-check that you have the proper emergency gear in your vehicle to ensure your safety before any storm hits.
Not all drivers are prepared for winter driving conditions, so take it slow when driving on snowy, icy and wet roadways. Drive as the environment warrants, stay alert, reduce your speed. Due to poor visibility and/or bad road conditions, always leave plenty of room between cars. Brake early and slowly give yourself time to stop and react safely.
Before pulling onto the road, be sure to completely clear snow and ice from your car windows, mirrors, lights, hood and roof. Take extra precaution when entering and exiting ramps and bridges as they can be extremely slippery. While four-wheel drive vehicles may help you get going quicker, they won’t help you stop any quicker – don’t get overconfident when driving one.
Make sure your car is properly maintained – the better shape your car is in, the safer you are on the road. Have your battery and ignition system checked, along with your brakes, transmission and tires. All fluids in your vehicle should be checked and topped off: de-icing washer fluid, oil, power steering and antifreeze. Change or adjust spark plugs, air, fuel and emission filters. Check your headlights, brake and tail lights, blinkers and emergency flashers. It is vital to also know your car’s capabilities and the safety features built into your vehicle such as traction control that helps the vehicle gain traction and the anti-lock braking system (ABS), which is standard in most new vehicles and assists you steer in emergencies by restoring traction.
In addition, during the winter season, don’t crowd the plow. I ask that you be alert and courteous to county, city, town and state snowplow operators who will be doing their best to keep the streets open and safe for traveling. Their goal is to maximize safety, be patient and drive with caution. For everyone’s protection, please assist in this difficult task by yielding to their efforts and keeping a safe distance behind snowplows to avoid having your vehicle struck by flying sand and salt.
We all know that winter driving can be a test for even the most experienced drivers. Being prepared is the best offense when it comes to driving in bad weather. Take it slow, buckle up, and drive safely this winter season.