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Preparation the key to safer, stress-free commute

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

With the first ice and snow of the season in the rearview mirror, AAA East Central encourages drivers to plan ahead for safe driving in wintry weather.

"Be aware of your surroundings and listen to weather and traffic conditions in places that you will be traveling to," said JJ Miller, AAA East Central Safety Advisor, in a news release. "Make sure you leave yourself enough time so that you will not feel hurried or take unnecessary chances. Avoid driving in icy conditions."

A job and other commitments may make it impossible to avoid driving in hazardous conditions so preparation before the journey is important to your safety. AAA offers the following tips for getting ready for winter driving:

Make sure windows are free of dirt and grime and keep your windshield wiper reservoir full at all times. Use a winter cleaning solution with antifreeze components to keep the washer fluid from freezing.

Clean your headlights so that you can see and be seen by others.

Inflate your tires to the manufacturer's specifications and be sure they have plenty of tread for proper traction.

Wear your seat belt low across your hips and on your shoulders. Sit at least 10 inches away from your steering wheel so that you have plenty of room for emergency steering maneuvers and also to give the airbag room to inflate.

Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times. The kit should contain an ice scraper, cloth or roll of paper towels, battery starter cables, first-aid kit, non-perishable snacks and drinking water, blanket, gloves, warning devices such as flares or triangles, window washing solvent, flashlight, traction mats, snow brush, snow shovel, tire chains and a small bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or kitty litter for traction.

"Drivers should also increase the following distance to give themselves plenty of room to maneuver their vehicle if an emergency occurs," Miller said. "If you can't stop in time to avoid hitting something, steer around it. At 45 mph it takes less than half the time to steer than to bring your car to a complete stop."

When driving on ice, do not make any quick changes in speed or direction. If your vehicle starts to skid, take your foot off the brake or gas pedal if the skid is a result of hard acceleration or braking. Shift to neutral, and look and steer in the direction that you want to go. Just before your wheels stop skidding, counter steer until you are going the desired direction.

Motorists should also clean the snow off their vehicle before they get behind the wheel.

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