State Highway Patrol offers winter weather driving tips

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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It's time to start thinking about staying safe while driving in the snow and ice, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol says there are a few things you should keep in mind when driving.

“In the event of a vehicle breakdown or traffic crash, motorists should turn on their hazard lights and safely position their vehicle as far off the road as possible, call #677 for assistance and remain in the vehicle until help arrives,” says Lt. Brent Meredith, commander of the OSHP Fremont Post.

According to State Patrol, there were 13,783 crashes on snow, ice or slush-covered roads in Ohio last year, up 19% from the previous year, and resulted in 26 deaths and 3,613 injuries. 21% of these crashes were speed-related.

AAA says there are a number of ways to avoid such accidents when the roads are slick:

- Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
- Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
- If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
- Always look and steer where you want to go.
- Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
- 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. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. 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.
- 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 anti-lock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. 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 just starts your wheels spinning. 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 down hill as slowly as possible.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
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. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

Before the winter weather sets in, make sure your car is ready:

- Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Pack a cellular telephone with your local AAA’s telephone number, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.

If you get stranded, AAA recommends the following:

- Don’t 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. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t 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 gasoline.
- Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.