With a potentially historic blizzard threatening the East Coast, the best thing to do once the snow begins to fall is to stay home. Winter storms contribute to more than 2,000 road deaths every winter and nearly half a million crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
But if you do have to drive in possibly treacherous conditions, here are some tips for remaining safe on the road from the AAA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
BEFORE THE SNOW
- Be prepared: Have an emergency kit in your car that includes a bag of cat litter, sand or other abrasive materials to get traction on ice, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, gloves or mittens, boots, ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, blanket, warning flares or triangles, food and water, first-aid items, extra windshield-washer fluid and antifreeze and a piece of bright cloth.
- Take your cell: Charge your mobile phone and bring a charger with you. If you do charge your phone in the car, make sure your tailpipe is clear to avoid the danger from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Fill it up: Fill your gas tank and check wiper blades, windshield-washer fluid, oil and antifreeze.
DURING THE SNOW
- Drive slowly: Accelerate and stop slowly to avoid skids.
- Hang back: Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. The extra space will provide the longer distance you will need if you have to stop.
- Easy on the brake: Brake early by applying firm, steady pressure on the pedal. Don’t stop if you can avoid it. If you can roll slowly until a traffic light changes, do it. It is much easier to get moving while rolling than from a full stop.
- Taking hills: Don’t power up hills — your wheels may just begin to spin. Instead get momentum before you reach the hill, and slow down when you reach the top.
- Careful on the bridge: Be especially cautious on bridges, which freeze first, and on highway exit ramps, which might have gotten less anti-icing material.
- Avoid cruise control: Don’t use cruise control in wintry conditions because even roads that appear clear can have slippery spots. The slightest tap on your brakes to deactivate the cruise control could cause you to lose control.
- If you get stranded: Stay in your vehicle, avoid over-exertion, let fresh air in, run the engine every 10 minutes, but make sure your exhaust pipe is free of snow. Turn on the dome light at night when the engine is running. Change your position often, move your hands and legs, rub your hands together or put them under your armpits or between your legs and remove your shoes occasionally and rub your feet.
AFTER THE SNOW