A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: Over wintry weekend, motorists urged to use caution with changing road conditions; some tips

With the arrival of cold temperatures and wintry precipitation on the way, AAA Blue Grass is gearing up for a busy time.

“The dramatic drop in temperatures and accumulating snow in the forecast means it will be all hands on deck as AAA responds to stranded motorists as quickly and safely as possible,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, AAA Blue Grass manager of public and government affairs. “No one ever plans on getting stranded, but tires and batteries are some of the most common problems seen over the winter months. AAA reminds motorists to be sure their vehicle is in good condition before heading out onto the roadways.”

Each year, AAA rides to the rescue of approximately 32 million stranded motorists across the country. The not-for-profit auto club association offers the following winter-weather reminders for motorists:

Winter Driving Preparedness

• Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
• Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage, nor leave a running vehicle unattended.
• Make certain your tires are properly inflated. Never mix radial tires with other tire types.

• Have the battery checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather. AAA members can request a visit from a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician who will test their battery and replace it on-site, if necessary.
• Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
• Before heading out, motorists are advised to prepare a winter emergency kit and stow in the trunk of their vehicle to have it immediately available. Emergency kit items should include a de-icer, shovel, ice scraper, warning flare or reflector triangle, flashlight with fresh batteries, first aid kit, jumper cables and sand or kitty litter (for traction). Also pack a blanket, extra gloves and heavy but light-colored jacket, scarf or hat (so you can be seen if you have to get out of your vehicle); snacks and beverages for passengers and pets who may be traveling with you; and a cell phone with car charger.
• AAA members should travel with their membership card or have their membership number handy when calling for roadside assistance. Making sure your AAA membership is active to take advantage of roadside assistance is important and as simple as going to AAA.com or stopping in at one of the AAA Blue Grass retail stores in Lexington.

Tips for Driving in the Snow

• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids.
• Drive slowly. Every maneuver takes longer on snow-covered roads.
• Increase your following distance to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
• Whether you have antilock 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 downhill 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.

“The first goal is to try to avoid a breakdown by keeping your vehicle up-to-date on maintenance. The second goal, should you break down, is to stay as safe and warm as possible while waiting for help to arrive,” AAA Blue Grass’ Weaver Hawkins said.  
Many of the winter emergency items listed above – plus pre-assembled multi-item kits including 66-piece Winter Safety Road Kit and other items available at the AAA store.

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