AAA prepares for winter storm, offers tips for drivers

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BUFFALO, N.Y (WIVB) — Ready or not, snow is on its way and people throughout western New York are bracing for winter weather.

AAA crews are preparing for snow that is expected to hit the area this weekend.

“We’re making sure that all of our service vehicles are ready to go, making sure we got the best tires we can, making sure that the preventative maintenance has been done,” said Brian Dadswell, fleet operations manager for AAA.

Dadswell says they’re preparing the same way drivers should be too.

“Making sure that you keep at least a quarter to a half a tank of fuel in your car, making sure you have the vehicle checked by a mechanic. One of the most overlooked things in the winter time is you battery,” said Dadswell.

Experts say before you head out on the road you should keep these items in your car:

“Some jumper cables, a small set of tools, a screw driver, a pair of pliers, maybe some duct tape, an extra change of clothes, some gloves,” said Dadswell.

AAA says they see more calls during winter storms.

“We tend to see an increase in people locking their vehicle, locking their keys inside, the vehicle may not start indicating some type of battery problem and then we always unfortunately run into scenarios where people have lost traction and end up off the roadway,” said Dadswell.

It’s hard to predict how busy they will be depending on how severe the weather is and how prepared people are, nonetheless, AAA says they’re ready no matter what.

Here are some tips for driving in the snow, courtesy of AAA:

DO

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Increase following distances. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold braking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • If possible, stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can.

DON’T

  1. Don’t continue at the same speed you would be traveling in clear, dry conditions
  • Rain, snow and ice can dramatically reduce your tires’ traction.
  • Drivers should slow down to regain the traction that is lost due to the weather.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads may only result in spinning your wheels. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. It’s difficult to move up a hill on an icy road. If possible, get your vehicle moving on a flat roadway first before taking on a hill.

2. Do not brake and turn at the same time or be rough with your steering/braking

  • Asking your vehicle to do two things at a time makes it more likely that your tires will lose traction
  • Brake first, then turn, then accelerate.
  • If you’re not gentle with steering, acceleration and braking, your vehicle’s balance can be negatively affected, increasing the chance of experiencing a skid.
  • Always steer, accelerate and brake smoothly.
  • Slamming on the brakes can make the skid even worse.
  • If skidding, continue to look and steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go.

3. Don’t follow behind other vehicles as closely as you would when driving in clear, dry conditions.

  • Slick roads means your vehicle cannot slow down as quickly.
  • Increase following distances to a minimum of 5-6 seconds.
  • Always keep open space to at least one side of your vehicle, in case you need make an emergency lane change maneuver.

IF YOU’RE STUCK

  • Clear a path in front of your wheels for several feet by driving forward and backward or shoveling.
  • With your wheels pointed straight to minimize rolling resistance, shift to “drive” (or second gear for manual transmissions) and apply gentle pressure to the accelerator, WITHOUT spinning the wheels. If you let the wheels spin, you will only dig deeper into the snow.
  • If you need more traction, use traction mats, kitty litter, or one of the abrasive materials that you included in your emergency winter driving kit. Do not let anyone stand directly ahead or behind the drive wheels.
  • If you are still stuck, rock your vehicle out of the rut by applying the accelerator slowly in low gear, releasing when you stop moving forward, and re-applying when you stop rolling backward. Repeat in rapid succession using minimum power to avoid spinning wheels.
  • Try to avoid driving when visibility is poor. If you must drive, keep your speed low, use your low-beam headlights, and pull off to a safe spot if conditions worsen.

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