Winter Driving Precautions

T-Sgt. Nate Leonard, UPD Columnist

Welcome back and I hope everyone enjoyed a great break with family and friends. Around this time of year we start seeing more and more snow as the weather progresses. This can lead to difficulties driving on the roads, especially for those who are not accustomed to the weather here in upstate New York. This week I have gathered some winter weather driving tips that may help you stay safe on the roads for this winter season.

Before you even start driving on the roads, there are a few things you should check and maintain on your vehicle. Make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow and dirt. Covered/dirty lights can make it difficult for you to see the road and other vehicles will have difficulty seeing you. Speaking of seeing the road, make sure you check your windshield wipers to make sure they are in good working condition and are not frozen to your windshield before driving. You will no doubt also need plenty of windshield washer fluid. This is something that is often overlooked until you are on the road and cannot clean the salt and dirt off your windshield because you are out of fluid. Try to always keep at least a half tank of gas in your vehicle at all times. I know this may be tough on a college student budget, but it may help keep your fuel lines from freezing in colder weather.

There are a few things to keep in mind while actually driving in adverse weather as well. Try not to use the cruise control while driving on slippery roads. When using cruise control you will have far less control over your vehicle. Accelerate and decelerate slowly. If you take off too fast you will most likely just spin your tires and if you attempt to decelerate quickly by stomping the brakes, you will most likely end up in an uncontrollable skid. The general rule of thumb for following another vehicle is typically 3 to 4 seconds. In winter weather conditions that rule should be extended to the 8 to 10 second range as a safety precaution. If your vehicle does begin to lose traction with the road and begin to skid DO NOT PANIC. The first thing you should do is take your foot off the accelerator and try to avoid stomping on the brakes. When you apply the brakes in a skid you will most likely lose any chance of steering the vehicle.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind and hopefully they will help keep all of you a little safer on the roads this winter. The best way to stay safe is to not drive in adverse weather if you don’t have to. If travel is necessary, plan to leave earlier than you normally would so you aren’t rushing. University Police has a weather hotline (436-2000) you can call, which is updated regularly, to get weather and road conditions as well as class cancellations. We also have created a Facebook page which we will hopefully be able to put weather updates, cancellations and parking changes on. Check out NYS University Police at Oneonta on Facebook.

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