AAA: Be prepared for snow, wintry driving conditions
Meteorologists have increased projected snowfall totals for Central Virginia and surrounding areas, with some areas expected to see as much as a foot of snow. As winter weather begins to fall in many parts of Virginia tonight, AAA is sending out a critical S.O.S. warning drivers to prepare for dangerous driving conditions associated with the extreme weather event.
“The best advice is to stay home and avoid dangerous driving conditions,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA. “If you must go out, it’s important to know how to drive properly on slick roads as this can make all the difference in the world when the precipitation starts to fall.”
Winter Driving: What NOT to Do
1. 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
2. Do not brake and turn at the same time
- 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.
3. Don’t follow behind other vehicles as closely as you would when driving in clear, dry conditions
- Slick roads means your vehicle cannot slow down as quickly.
- Increase following distances to a minimum of 5-6 seconds.
- Always keep open space to at least one side of your vehicle, in case you need make an emergency lane change maneuver.
4. Don’t be rough with your steering, acceleration and braking.
- If you are 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.
5. Don’t hit the brakes if you start to skid
- Slamming on the brakes can make the skid even worse
Winter Road Trip Advice:
- Watch weather reports prior to a long distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must travel, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
- Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel Center or a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
- Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
- Be sure your emergency kit is stocked with a cell phone and charger, plus blankets, gloves, hats, flashlights, food, water and any needed medication.
- If you become snowbound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Do not try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
- Do not over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
- 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 as 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 floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
- If possible, run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve fuel.
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.
- Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
- Increase following distances. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten 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 stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- 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.