Rain in the valley, snow and ice in the mountains: Things are back to what used to be wintertime normal in California.
With regular doses of wind, rain and snow come conditions that change safety rules of the road. The following are tips for enhancing your chances of staying safe on the road, whether it’s drenched in rain, covered in snow or gleaming with ice.
Failure to heed safety rules of the road can lead to everything from annoying inconvenience to costly damages to fatal consequences.
Before you depart
These tips from the American Trucking Association, National Weather Service, AAA and the Charlotte Observer.
▪ Prepare your vehicle for long-distance travel: Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Make sure you phone is charged and that you carry a charger with you in the vehicle.
▪ Buckle up: Safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and are a simple way to increase your safety on the road.
▪ Clear as much snow and ice from your vehicle –including on the roof and hood – as possible before you hit the road to insure you have maximum visibility and avoid creating a hazard for the vehicle behind you. Never pour hot water on the window to melt ice and snow, as this can crack the windshield.
▪ Check your emergency kit: Contents should include: battery powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares. Keep a survival kit in your car, including blankets, boots and gloves, hats and any necessary medications. Also carry a small shovel, jumper cables, and something that can be used for traction (cat litter, sand).
▪ Plan ahead: Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.
▪ Check weather conditions and forecasts. Sacbee.com, The Sacramento Bee, other publications and organizations such as the National Weather Service have accurate information. Sacbee.com features an interactive map of real-time traffic conditions, as well as current weather.
On the road
▪ Leave early and avoid risks: Leave early – allow twice the normal driving time – so you won’t be anxious about arriving late and to accommodate delays. Road conditions may change due to inclement weather or traffic congestion.
▪ Slow Down: brakes are less responsive on icy roads and other drivers may make unpredictable moves because they are being cautious. Allow plenty of space between you and other vehicles and reduce your speed.
▪ Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.
▪ Don’t use cruise control.
▪ Don’t tailgate. It can take you between three and 10 times more distance to stop. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front so you can avoid snow and ice blowing onto your windshield or maneuver around patches of ice.
▪ Do not cut in front of large trucks: Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
▪ Be aware of truck blind spots: When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots. If you can’t see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can’t see you.
▪ Stop slowly. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, pump your brakes to slow down. If you have anti-lock brakes, hold the pedal down firmly to stop.
▪ Approach bridges and overpasses with caution: These areas and others at high elevations tend to freeze first.
▪ Drive in existing tracks: To help with traction, drive in paths already dug by other vehicles’ wheels.
▪ Avoid spinning out: If you start to skid, take your foot OFF the gas and carefully turn the steering wheel toward where you want the wheels to go.
▪ Be aware of changes in weather: Weather conditions across the U.S. will be changing – especially during early mornings and evenings. Watch for ice, snow and other weather-related obstacles, and be aware of any temperature changes.
▪ Don’t wander off: If you’re stuck, stay with your vehicle. It could make it easier for rescuers to locate you.
Source: Charlotte Observer archives, AAA, National Weather Service, American Trucking Association