Winter weather will challenge drivers this holiday week. AAA–The Auto Club Group is warning motorists to be prepared for hazardous driving conditions.
“Since speed is a factor in many crashes, never be in a hurry to reach your destination, especially when poor weather and road conditions prevail,” advises Rose White, public affairs director for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “Increase your following distance, reduce your speed, and never use cruise control when roads are slick.”
AAA recommends using the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s 511 Advanced Traveler Information System to monitor road conditions. Their system provides the public with helpful information that will assist commuters and travelers along Nebraska’s highway system. There are three ways to access their 24-hour-a-day, year-round Nebraska road condition and traveler information system—by mobile app, website, and phone.
Nebraska 511 features an app that works on smartphones and tablets operating on the Apple and Android platforms. Visit the App Store or Google Play and search for Nebraska 511.
The 511 website can be accessed at www.511.nebraska.gov. The 511 website provides a wealth of information including road conditions, camera views of selected roadways, and colored-coded roadways to show speeds to indicate a slowdown in real-time. The Snow Plow Tracker gives website visitors a glimpse at plows clearing roadways.
The 511 voice-activated phone menu system does not provide weather forecasts. It will provide current road condition information. To access 511 via a cell phone within Nebraska dial 511. If calling from outside of Nebraska or using a landline from anywhere in the U.S., dial 800-906-9069.
AAA recommends that motorists keep winter weather emergency supplies in their vehicle including a cell phone, cell phone charger, power bar for your cell phone, boots, socks, gloves, stocking cap, blankets, a coffee can filled with candles and matches, flashlight and reflective triangle.
“If you become stranded on a highway, it is best to stay with the vehicle. If you can start your engine, run it for a few minutes at a time, just long enough to keep warm. Always clear snow away from the exhaust pipe area before starting the engine. A snow blocked exhaust pipe could cause deadly carbon monoxide gases to enter the passenger compartment,” warns White.
“If you see a stranded motorist and you are unable to render aid, dial *55 on your cell phone and provide the dispatcher with a description of the vehicle and details about the vehicle’s location, such as the nearest mile marker number or landmark,” she added.
AAA recommends the following tips for safe winter driving:
Before starting out in snowy weather, remove the snow from the entire car. Make certain mirrors, lights, brake lights, rearview camera lens, and turn signals are clear of ice and snow.
If you operate a newer model vehicle equipped with advanced technology safety systems, make certain all exterior sensors are clear of ice and snow. Check vehicle owner’s manual for more information.
To increase visibility during the daylight hours, drive with the headlights on.
All passengers should be safely secured with seat belts fastened. Items that may become flying projectiles during a crash should be stored in the trunk.
The driver’s hands should be properly positioned on the steering wheel, keeping in mind that during a crash, the steering column airbag may deploy. (Check vehicle’s owner manual for proper hand positioning.)
If you have teen drivers in your family, restrict their driving privileges until you have the opportunity to test their winter driving skills in an empty parking lot. Teens need to understand that vehicles operate differently when roads are slick or snow packed.
Avoid fast acceleration and hard braking since both may cause skids.
Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections.
Always reduce speed and increase following distance when poor road or weather conditions prevail. Never use cruise control if the roads are wet, slick or snow packed.
Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.
When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of large trucks which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop.
Four-wheel drive may help to get you going on snow packed roads, but it will not improve your ability to stop on icy roads.
If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal when stopping. You may feel or hear a thumping sound when the system is engaged.
If following a snow plow, maintain a distance of 100 feet, except to pass.
Motorists can help keep their vehicles on the road by doing the following:
Check your battery strength. Faulty batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor. At 0 degrees, a good battery has 35 percent less starting power. Many automotive facilities can quickly check your battery’s power.
When freezing temperatures prevail, keep the fuel tank at least half-full to avoid fuel line freeze-up.
Have your tires inspected. Adequate tread depth and proper tire pressure are essential to safe winter driving. Spare tire mounts located underneath some SUVs and pickup trucks should be inspected for corrosion and wear.
Emergency Road Kit
Each vehicle in your family should be equipped with a winter emergency road kit that contains the following:
- Plastic container of abrasive material such as sand or salt. (Use an empty plastic ice cream bucket or gallon jug to store your sand.)
- Small snow shovel and ice scraper
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Winter grade windshield washer solvent
- Empty coffee can filled with candles and matches (mini-furnace)
- Mobile phone, pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family members and emergency services
- First-aid kit
- Non-perishable snacks
- Blankets, thermal sleeping bag, boots, heavy socks, gloves, hat, and scarves to prevent frostbite and hypothermia
- Jumper cable with safety goggles
- Warning devices (flares or triangles)
- Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
- Large plastic trash bags, newspapers, floor mats (use as insulation between layers of clothing)
- Red scarf or flag, or folding windshield sun visor that indicates Call Police