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Amid winter weather, AAA offers driving tips to stay safe

Towing and travel experts give advice as winter weather arrives in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

ARKANSAS, USA — Travel Experts offered tips for drivers traveling in winter weather.

AAA Spokesperson Nick Chabarria explained that their researchers "found 41% of traffic crashes and 33% of traffic deaths during the winter occur in adverse weather or on hazardous roadway surface conditions. "

"If you can stay home while roads are covered... That's your best bet," said Chabarria. "Certainly if you do have to go out make sure you're tuning in to local weather forecasts and checking road condition maps before you head out so you know what to expect."

While some may want to warm up their car, Chabarria warns of thieves and carbon monoxide poisoning while in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space. He also said new vehicles should be ready by the time a driver straps their seat belt.

"Some people want the interior warmed up before they get in, but mechanically, your engine is ready to go. From the time it takes you to start your ignition to when you put your seatbelt on," said Chabarria.

"What's another 20 minutes getting home versus wrecking your car... and the body shops are backed up around here quite a bit, we have a yard full of cars, they won't fix," said Shane Andreasen, facilities manager for roadside services towing of Northwest Arkansas.

The towing service is a contractor for AAA roadside assistance. Andreasen said they'd monitor conditions and have 12 drivers overnight, but all employees will be on call. In an emergency, he suggested remembering your location, keeping yourself warm, and staying in your car.

"Don't get out of your car until the police tell you to, if it's if there's like nine or 10 cars piled up, don't get out because there's gonna be more," said Andreasen.

"Your car is going to be much more visible to other drivers on the road than you will be," said Chabarria.

Andreasen warns that areas on the highway requiring speed changes may become an issue for drivers. He says areas to watch are the I-49 exits around Promenade, Wagon Wheel, and Johnson.

AAA recommends the following tips while driving in snowy and icy conditions:

Cold Weather Driving Tips

  • Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car: cell phone charger, jumper cables, small snow shovel, kitty litter or sand (for traction), warm clothing, blankets, extra food and water, flashlight, snow brush, and glass scraper, medications, and more.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of treads.
  • Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as ice and snow.

Tips for Driving in the Snow

  • Stay home. Only go out if necessary. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
  • Clear all snow and ice off your vehicle. Make sure you have a clear field of view out all windows and mirrors before driving. Clean all snow and ice off your vehicle to reduce hazards for other vehicles on the road.
  • Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid 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.
  • Increase your following distance to five to six 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, 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 will just make your wheels spin. 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 slowly.
  • 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.

Tips for Long-Distance Winter Trips

  • Be Prepared: Have your vehicle checked by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility before hitting the road.
  • Check the Weather: Check the weather along your route and when possible, delay your trip if bad weather is expected.
  • Stay Connected: Before hitting the road, notify others and let them know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.

Tips if You Do Get Stuck in the Snow

  • Stay with your vehicle: Your vehicle 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.
  • Don’t over exert yourself: When digging out your vehicle, listen to your body and stop if you become tired.
  • Be Visible: Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna of your vehicle 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.
  • Clear the Exhaust Pipe: Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle while the engine is running.
  • Stay Warm: Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps. Pre-pack blankets and heavy clothing to use in case of an emergency.
  • Conserve Fuel: If possible, only run the engine and heater long enough to remove the chill. This will help to conserve fuel.

Additional information on driving in winter conditions can be found at How to Go on Ice and Snow.

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