Winter Driving Preparedness
Basic winter safety driving tips: In a word... Prepare, prepare, prepare
BOISE - As Idaho motorists take to the roads this winter, the Idaho Transportation Department reminds them that a few extra precautions can make winter journeys safer.
Plan ahead. Before heading out on the state's roadways, dial 511 or visit 511.idaho.gov on the Web for updates on winter road and weather conditions, emergency closures and access to tourist information.
Call B4 U Go. Before leaving home, check the 511 Traveler Services website at 511.idaho.gov or dial 511. Reports are available on highway conditions, mountain passes and weather. More than 130 camera images from throughout Idaho also are available on the website and on the Mobile Web application.
Slow down. Leave a few minutes early and allow extra time to get to destinations. It is better to be a few minutes late than put oneself and others at risk by driving too fast for the conditions.
Buckle up. Wearing a seat belt is one of the easiest safety precautions one can take. Also, children must be properly secured in a safety seat that is right for their age and weight.
Use extra caution. Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges. Take caution against black ice. Drive less than the speed limit if conditions warrant.
Drive safely around snowplows. Keep at least two car lengths behind snowplows for every 10 mph of car speed. Do not pass a snowplow, and never drive through the snow being ejected from the plows because the force of the spraying snow can throw a car out of control.
Be prepared. Winter conditions increase the importance of a well-maintained vehicle. Keep car windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice. Make sure tires and brakes are ready for the extra demands of winter. Visit a mechanic and ensure car battery and fluid levels are good and heating units are working.
Keep emergency supplies in the car: Flashlights, extra batteries, first aid kit, pocket knife, blanket or sleeping bag, extra clothing, small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under vehicle wheels, small shovel, bottled water, booster cables, rope, energy bars or other food, brightly-colored scarf to attract attention in case of an emergency, waterproof matches or cigarette lighter and a map of the area.
Keep in touch: If carrying a cell phone, make sure it is charged and have a list of emergency telephone numbers available. Also, share travel plans with family or friends. Include estimated departure and arrival times, route and destination.
Don't drink and drive. Idaho law enforcement officers will be increasing patrols to catch and arrest drunk drivers this season. Be safe by designating a sober driver before traveling to any party or event involving alcohol.
BOISE - Motorists can prepare for safer winter travel by keeping a simple emergency kit on hand. The Idaho Transportation Department advises drivers to carry some helpful items in the car in case of an emergency:
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- Stocked first aid kit
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Mittens, socks and a wool cap
- Waterproof covering like a tarp or a poncho
- Three-pound coffee can, which can be used to heat water
- A small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under stuck wheels; it also adds weight to your vehicle
- A small shovel
- Bottled water (but remember it will probably freeze so allow expansion room in the container)
- Booster (jumper) cables
- Energy bars or other high-energy food like raisins or nuts
- Waterproof matches or a cigarette lighter
- Candles (a blanket over your head, body heat and the heat from a single candle can prevent freezing)
- Basic tool kit to include pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, tape and wire
- Paper towels or toilet tissue, good for their designed purpose as well as a fire starter
- Spare tire
- Rope and wire, tow chain or a strap
- Starter fluid, extra oil, gas line deicer and battery booster cables
- Map of the area where you plan to travel
- Signaling devices such as emergency flares or a mirror
Having these items on hand can help ensure a driver's safety, but vehicles also need attention at the start of the winter season. The American Automobile Association (AAA) advises drivers to prepare their vehicles for the winter season by having a mechanic check the following items:
- Antifreeze level
- Wipers and windshield washer fluid
- Ignition system
- Headlights and hazard lights
- Exhaust system
- Window defroster and heater
- Brakes, oil level (if necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil or the SAE 10w/30 viscosity)
- Winter tires
Basic automobile parts can help save a stranded motorist.Put these automotive parts to good use:
- A hubcap or sun visor can be substituted for a shovel.
- Seat covers can be used as a blanket.
- Floor mats can be used to shut out the wind.
- Engine oil burned in a hubcap creates a smoke signal visible for miles.
- A car horn can be heard as far as a mile downwind. Three long blasts, ten seconds apart, every 30 minutes, is a standard distress signal.
- A rear-view mirror can be removed to serve as a signaling device.
- Burn a tire for a signal or for warmth. Release the air pressure and use gasoline or oil for a means to ignite it.
- Before beginning a trip or long drive, motorists can dial 511 or visit 511.idaho.gov on the Web for updates on winter road and weather conditions, emergency closures and access to tourist information.