Tahoe Chief’s Corner : Prepare, protect, prevent — safe winter driving | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Chief’s Corner : Prepare, protect, prevent — safe winter driving

Mike Brown
Chief’s Corner

Mike Brown

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Winter driving can be hazardous and scary, especially in northern mountain regions such as ours that get a lot of snow and ice.

Additional preparations can help make a trip safer, or help motorists deal with an emergency. Let's take a look at some safety information and precautionary steps you can take ahead of time.

1. PREPARE

Maintain Your Car: Check battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers, keep your windows clear, put no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir, and check your antifreeze.

Have On Hand: flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, even floor mats), shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, warning devices (like flares) and blankets. For long trips, add food and water, medication and cellphone.

Stopped or Stalled: Stay in your car, don't overexert, put bright markers on antenna or windows and shine dome light, and, if you run your car, clear exhaust pipe and run it just enough to stay warm.

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Plan Your Route: Allow plenty of time (check the weather and leave early if necessary), be familiar with the maps/directions, and let others know your route and arrival time.

Practice Cold Weather Driving: During the daylight, rehearse maneuvers slowly on ice or snow in an empty lot. Steer into a skid. Know what your brakes will do — stomp on antilock brakes, pump on non-antilock brakes. Stopping distances are longer on water-covered ice and ice. Don't idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.

Get Noticed: Make your vehicle and yourself as noticeable as possible. Drive with your headlights on during stormy conditions in order to increase vehicle visibility.

2. PROTECT YOURSELF

Buckle up and use child safety seats properly.

Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an air bag.

Children 12 and under are much safer in the back seat.

3. PREVENT CRASHES

Drugs and alcohol never mix with driving.

Slow down and increase distances between cars.

Keep your eyes open for pedestrians walking in the road.

Avoid fatigue and get plenty of rest before the trip, stop at least every three hours, and rotate drivers if possible.

If you are planning to drink, designate a sober driver.

When discussing winter travel preparedness, drivers must consider their personal needs, as well as making sure their automobile is ready to face unforeseen conditions.

While avoiding driving in known hazardous conditions is the wisest choice, storms may strike with little or no warning. Likewise, driving may be necessary. Time spent in preparation is your best defense.

If winter weather deteriorates, the prepared driver is less likely to panic and stress out. Panic and stress are leading factors in making the wrong choice during an emergency.

For more information on safe winter driving please visit http://www.nhtsa.gov.

"Chief's Corner" is a regular feature in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza from North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Chief Mike Brown, offering information, tips and education material on fire safety, emergency preparedness and other pertinent topics.