Winter driving

IMG_5179

With winter weather approaching and last season’s “Snow-pocalypse” fresh in the city’s collective memory, safety concerns are more serious than ever. Drivers should adapt their driving techniques to the weather’s compromised roads.

An ice scraper, blankets and reflective markers or flares are all essential winter items to store in the trunk, according to Wayne Pittman, chief of the Samford Police Department.

“In the wintertime, don’t let your gas tank get down to empty before you fill it up,” Pittman warned. If you do have a problem, you’re not going to have any gas to keep yourself warm.”

Pittman’s first advice for winter driving is simply preventive: “If you don’t have to drive, stay home — that’s the number one thing right there. Any time you get out on roads that are icy or there’s snow on them, and they’re a little bit slick, there’s an increased potential for something to happen.”

Drivers that are unfamiliar with icy roads often panic and react poorly to skidding tires. Instead of slamming on the brakes, allowing the tires to slide, drivers should gently let off the brake pedal and allow the wheels to spin again on the road. Once traction is regained, resume braking cautiously.

Bridges typically ice over before roadways. Steady driving will bypass any ice or slick spots, even on exposed pavement.

“When you go over a bridge, maintain your speed and keep going straight,” said Pittman. “Don’t accelerate or hit the brake, because if there is ice, you’ll definitely start sliding on bridges.”

Leaving a vehicle behind in a snowy lane may be a last resort, but there are steps to be taken beforehand that many drivers don’t consider.

“If you’re on a slight hill and you’re close to home, you might consider letting some air out of your back tires so they flatten out just a little bit for some more traction to possibly get you up the hill,” Pittman suggests. “Once you get home, make sure you get them inflated again before you do very much driving.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitors traffic conditions for the entire country. Drivers can check with NOAA, their local news agencies or various smartphone apps to stay updated and informed.