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Stay safe out there: Winter driving tips for snow

The weather outside is frightful, but that does not mean the commute to work, school or the grocery store has to be. Although many Western New York residents may believe their snowy driving skills are up to par, after a Lake Effect snow band dropped almost a foot of snow on the southern part of the county earlier this week, even the most seasoned drivers may be able to use a brush-up as they brush off their cars for those treacherous travel days.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a division of the United States Department of Labor, releases winter driving tips every year, this year focusing on the “three P’s of safe winter driving:” prepare for the trip, protect yourself and prevent crashes.

The OSHA and Department of Transportation recommends that drivers:

Prepare
– Maintain the car: Check the car’s battery, tire tread and windshield wipers, keep the windows clear, put anti-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir.
– Have on hand: A flashlight; jumper cables; abrasive material, such as rock salt, sand, kitty litter or even extra floor mats; a shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, warning devices like flares and blankets. For longer trips, add nonperishable food, water and medication. Make sure your cell phone is on and charged, at all times.
– If the car gets stuck or stalls: stay in the car, do not overexert trying to start or move the vehicle, put bright markers on the antenna or windows and shine the dome light. If running the car to stay warm, clear the exhaust pipe, run it just enough to stay warm and watch fuel levels.
– Plan your route: Allow plenty of time for travel. Check the weather and leave early if necessary, be familiar with the maps and directions, including alternate routes in case of road closures or crashes, and let others know the route.
– Practice cold-weather driving. During the daylight, rehearse maneuvers slowly on ice or snow in an empty lot, steer into a skid and become familiar with the vehicle’s reaction to conditions. Stomp on antilock brakes and pump on non-antilock brakes.
– Remember that 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.

Protect
– Buckle up and use child safety seats properly.
– Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an air bag.
– Place children younger than 12 in a back seat, where they will be safer, due to their smaller size.

Prevent crashes
– Drugs and alcohol never mix with driving, so designate a sober driver, at all times.
– Slow down and increase following distances between cars, especially when visibility is reduced.
– Watch for pedestrians walking in the road.
– Avoid fatigue: Get plenty of rest before the trip, stop at least every three hours, and rotate drivers if possible.

In Western New York, weather conditions can vary widely, even between municipalities. The ground could be clear in Colden, with a foot of blowing snow in Springville. Check local weather stations, read weather maps and be prepared for changing conditions, even for relatively short trips.
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