Driving Tips for an Upstate Winter

T-Sgt. Nate Leonard, Columnist

So far this winter we have been very lucky as far as snowfall and cold weather are concerned. (Please find a piece of wood and start knocking on it!) Those of us who reside in upstate New York know that it is only a matter of time before the snowfall becomes heavy and the temperatures drop drastically. With these adverse weather conditions come difficulties on the roads. This week, I have gathered some winter weather driving tips that may help you stay safe on the roads for the remainder of the 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 or dirty lights can make it difficult to see the road, and other vehicles will have difficulty seeing you. Speaking of seeing the road, make sure to check your windshield wipers to make sure they are in good working condition, and that they 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’s 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 quickly the tires will spin, and if you attempt to decelerate quickly by stomping the brakes, you will most likely end up in an uncontrollable skid; so the general rule of thumb for following another vehicle is typically three to four seconds. In winter weather conditions that rule should be extended to the eight to ten 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; 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 (607-436-2000) you can call. It is updated regularly with weather and road conditions as well as class cancellations.

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