Area motorists will be waking up to freezing temperatures and possibly a coat of ice on their vehicles as forecasts predict rain, snow and freezing temperatures tonight, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. A combination of winter storms will bring frigid weather and snow to the Eastern U.S. and the Washington metro area Thursday night and early next week. Area drivers should make certain their vehicles are prepared for the sharp temperature drop.
“Extreme temperature shifts are hard on your vehicle, so don’t get caught off guard by the coming winter weather,” said Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs. “Drivers should make sure their vehicles are prepared with proper levels of antifreeze, a strong battery, and plenty of windshield washer fluid. Also keep an emergency kit in the trunk should you run into any problems during your commute.”
Recommendations For the Frigid Temperatures and Driving In Snow And Ice:
- Prepare your Vehicle for the Very Cold Weather. With temps predicted to fall into the teens over the next few days, motorists need to make sure they have adequate levels of antifreeze, a strong battery, and de-icing solution that can help with windows and locks. Inadequate anti-freeze can cause engine damage that will run into the thousands of dollars to repair. And emergency road service calls to AAA, especially for dead batteries and lockouts, always rise sharply when temperatures plummet.
- Prepare Your Vehicle for Use in Ice and Snow. Be sure your vehicle is ready for winter driving, even with only small amounts of snow being predicted. All weather or winter radial tires with excellent tread are necessary. Additionally, excellent windshield wipers with a full reservoir of wiper fluid are essential for visibility. AAA’s Winter Car Care Checklist can help determine a vehicle’s winter maintenance needs. Many of the items on the list can be inspected by a car owner in less than an hour, but others should be performed by a certified technician.
- Emergency Road Kit. AAA Mid-Atlantic urges motorists to place and keep a winter weather kit in their car. Winter weather driving kits should include: a blanket, ice scraper, flares/reflective triangles, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, bag of abrasive material such as cat litter, shovel, cloth/paper towels, and a fully charged cell phone. Check tires, wiper blades and car batteries before hitting the road.
- De-Icing A Car. Keep an extra ice scraper in your home should your ice scraper become frozen in the vehicle overnight. De-icing fluid should also be kept indoors should your door locks become frozen. Here is a link to a video presentation of AAA’s tips for properly removing snow from your vehicle. Removing snow and ice from your car before leaving home improves visibility and makes your car lighter and more responsive.
- When to Drive. If conditions are icy, AAA Mid-Atlantic is advising motorists to stay off the roads until road crews have treated the roads for ice and then not until conditions are favorable for the commute. Nearly one-quarter of weather related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, resulting in more than 1,300 deaths and 116,800 people injured annually, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
- School children in Arlington and Alexandria public schools have already returned to classes, so parents should also watch for any school closings over the next few days. Children in Falls Church and Fairfax County public schools do not return to classes until next week.
- Do Not Use Cruise Control and Avoid Tailgating. Normal following distances of three to four seconds for dry pavement should be increased to eight to 10 seconds when driving on icy surfaces. This extra time will allow for extra braking distance should a sudden stop become necessary. If driving on a four-lane highway, stay in the clearest lane; avoid changing lanes and driving over built-up snow. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface. Not using cruise control will allow you to respond instantly when you lift your foot off the accelerator.
- Know When to Brake and When to Steer. Some driving situations require abrupt action to avoid a crash or collision and in winter conditions the decision to steer or brake can have very different outcomes. When travelling over 25 MPH, AAA recommends steering over braking to avoid a collision in wintry conditions, as less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of vehicle control.
- Sometimes steering is not an option. Braking on slippery surfaces requires you to look further head and increased following and stopping distances. Plan stopping distances as early as possible and always look 20-30 seconds ahead of your vehicle to ensure you have time and space to stop safely. Shaded spots, bridges, overpasses and intersections are areas where ice is likely to form first and will be the most slippery. It is important to adjust your braking habits as road conditions change.
- Stay in Control Through a Skid. Even careful drivers can experience skids. When a vehicle begins to skid, it’s important to not panic. Continue to look and steer in the direction the car needs to go. Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
- Drive Distraction-Free. It is also important when driving in winter conditions to drive distraction-free and in the right frame of mind. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash. AAA recommends if you are with a passenger, enlist the passenger’s help to carry out activities that would otherwise distract you from driving safely.
AAA Mid-Atlantic advocates on behalf of its nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It provides a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 50-plus retail branches, regional operations centers, and the Internet. For more information, please visit our web site at www.AAA.com.