Tips for a Snowy Commute
The day’s snow could bring an early rush hour.
It's been close to 10 months since drivers in the region have had to deal with driving in snow. But the area is now seeing the white stuff, and it's sticking.
With the snow arriving mostly after Thursday morning's rush hour, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend II said the evening commute could see an uptick in accidents, like fender benders, compared to the morning.
Townsend also predicted the rush hour could begin two hours earlier today, perhaps as early as 2 p.m., because of early school dismissals and because of the holiday season.
"That's going to put a lot of people on the roads at the same time, and I think what that means is it's going to be a hellacious commute," Townsend said.
But he said road crews in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have prepared for the snowfall and have prepped the roads.
He said when the roads are properly treated, it helps mitigate some issues, but added that people still need to "brush up on our Ps and Qs to know how to drive properly on slick roads and to know how to do that makes all the difference in the world."
He said drivers need to be in a special state of mind to head out in the snow.
"You can't be on your BlackBerry. You can't be on your cell phone. You need to have both hands on the steering wheel. You need to drive defensively," Townsend said.
He said drivers need to be extremely away of their surroundings.
"You need to stay in your lane. You need to have plenty of space between yourself and the driver ahead of you and to keep a watch out for the driver who's commuting besides you," he said.
Before heading out in the road, Townsend suggested drivers remove all snow and ice from all windows, mirror and lights.
"Also, clear the way of your hood, roof, trunk and those kinds of things to make sure that it doesn't fly off and fly into your windshield and block your view," he added.
Townsend said it's important to increase visibility for you and the drivers around you.
"Remember to practice visibility… Be seen and see," he said.
He advised that drivers use their headlights and also that drivers should drive slowly and use extreme caution when stopping and turning.
"Nothing happens as quickly as it does on dry pavement, so you have to give yourself a lot of path to maneuver by driving slowly," Townsend said.
But most importantly, he said, don't go out if you don't have to.
AAA also offers the following snow safety tips:
- Watch weather reports prior to heading out. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination, and estimated time of arrival.
- Check your tire treads. Only drive a vehicle with tires that have excellent tread and that are rated for snow or all weather. With winter emergencies likely to be declared throughout the region, violators are subject to large fines.
- Clear your tire tracks. Remove as much snow as possible from the area around your tires. In order to provide extra traction, spread road salt, sand, or kitty litter on the ground next to all tires.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe isn't clogged. Clear out debris like snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the vehicle when the engine is running.
- Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
- Pack an emergency winter driving kit. It should include any needed medications; a mobile phone and car charger; blankets; a flashlight with extra batteries; a first-aid kit; drinking water; a small shovel; a sack of sand, cat litter or traction mats; windshield scraper and brush; battery booster cables; and emergency flares or reflectors.
- If you become snow-bound stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. Don't try to walk in a severe storm. It's easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
- Increase following distances on snow and ice. Motorists should leave at least eight to 10 seconds between themselves and the vehicle in front of them when driving in slippery conditions.
- 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. Take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. 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.
- 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 just starts your wheels spinning. 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 down hill as slowly as possible.
- Don't stop going up a hill. There's nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.