The National Safety Commission Alerts

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Extreme Winter Weather Demands Extra Driver Attention

AAA Chicago Chapter Reminds Motorists to Plan Ahead

Drivers can expect extremely dangerous driving conditions on most statewide highways in the upcoming weeks, thanks to snow, extreme cold and blizzard-like weather. The Automobile Association of America Chicago Chapter (AAA Chicago) is cautioning drivers to prepare themselves and their vehicles by monitoring weather conditions and following safety recommendations. If it's unsafe to travel and you don't have to drive, don't do it.

Due to the severe winter weather, AAA expects a high volume of road service requests in the weeks ahead. AAA Chicago reminds members that priority service will be given to those who are stranded or in a dangerous situation.

AAA says if you're stranded, it is best to stay with the vehicle. If you are able to start your engine, run it only long enough to maintain warmth. Make sure the exhaust pipe is free from snow and not blocked in any way. Make sure you have emergency supplies in the car, like a cell phone, boots, gloves, blanket, a "coffee can heater," flashlight and pop-up reflector.

Drive Defensively
When driving during winter weather, always drive cautiously to help maintain the safety of passengers, fellow motorists, roadside workers, and yourself. AAA recommends these tips for winter driving:

• Before heading out in snowy weather, be sure to remove the snow from the entire car, thereby preventing it from blowing onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Take extra time to clean your mirrors and lights.

• Drive with your low-beam headlights on.

• Be watchful for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even when the road appears to be ice-free.

• Look farther ahead in traffic than you normally would. The movements of other drivers will alert you to dangerous situations and give you extra reaction and braking time.

• Trucks need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop. When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of them.

• Don't use cruise control in falling rain or snow and freezing temperatures.

• Four-wheel drive will not help you stop any faster. Remember to always give yourself extra braking time and always remain alert.

• If your car has anti-lock brakes, apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal when braking.

Proper Preparation
Planning ahead for icy weather conditions will help keep your vehicle safely on the road. AAA Chicago advises doing the following:

• Check the strength of your battery. A faulty battery is the number-one cause of car starting problems. A good battery has 35 percent less starting power in 0 degrees than in less-adverse conditions.

• Park your car in the garage. In lieu of a garage, pull a tarp over the hood or park in a place that is protected from gusty winds. Place a plastic trash bag between the door and the frame to keep doors from freezing shut.

• To prevent a fuel-line freeze-up, keep the fuel tank at least half-full.

Did you know that courses are available to educate drivers on the rules of the road and the latest defensive driving techniques? Try one now!

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