As the Ohio Valley, like much of the United States, is facing serious winter storms this Thanksgiving holiday, we have decided to re-post the following entry about safe winter driving practices from attorney Zak Zatezalo for your use and enjoyment. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and please stay safe, wherever your travels may take you.
With the winter driving season again upon us, nearly all families will have reason to be out on the road in the dark, cold conditions of the next 3-4 months. Winter driving brings additional hazards, particularly in the more northern regions, like ours, that get a lot of snow and ice. Making time for a few preparations can help keep families safer and help motorists deal with an emergency.
Preparation starts with the car itself. On your car's outside, check the battery, tire-tread, antifreeze and windshield wipers. Keep your windows clear and be sure to keep adequate amounts of "no-freeze" window fluid in the car's washer reservoir. Inside, keep a flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, floor mats, etc.), a shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, bright colored flags, warning devices (like flares), blankets and hand and feet warmers.
For longer trips, check the weather and allow plenty of time. Be familiar with maps and directions, and let others know your route and arrival time. Bring food, water, medication and a cell phone along too.
Practice cold-weather driving. During the daylight, rehearse maneuvers slowly on ice or on snow in an empty lot. Remember, stopping distances are longer on water-covered road and on ice, so give yourself space. Steer into any skids and know what your brakes will do (i.e. stomp on antilock brakes, pump on non-antilock brakes).
If you're traveling with children, please make sure to properly install your car seats and obey all vehicle safety regulations. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children over age 3 in the U.S., and cause over 140,000 children's emergency room visits each year. Properly seating a child in a car seat or booster seat, in the back of the car, greatly reduces the risk of injury or death, but many parents don't follow the guidelines.
Always make sure that your infants and toddlers ride facing the rear of the vehicle until at least age 2 and in a seat with a 5-point harness up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer, regardless of their age. Make sure your school-aged children ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they reach 57 inches tall, the height of an average 11-year-old, and keep your child in the rear-seat until they reach age 13. It is also critical to make sure that your children's car seats are properly installed. Be sure to consult and follow the installation instructions that come with the car seat and have the installation professionally inspected. States offer this service for free and you can find your nearest inspection station by clicking here.
Finally, if you do find yourself stopped or stalled this winter, stay in your car, don't overexert yourself, put bright markers on your antenna or windows and shine your dome light. If you run your car, clear your exhaust pipe and run it just long enough to stay warm. Don't idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.
Making a little time for a few simple measures this winter season will help keep you and your family safe out on the road.