The Cold Facts About Winter Driving

Inspecting Tire Tread Uisng a Penny

If you see the space above Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires.

Some might say Texans have never experienced a real winter. They’re probably right, at least by their standards. Still, sleet, freezing rain, ice and snow can make driving a slippery proposition. Here are a few things everyone can do to reduce the chance of having an accident.

Before you drive
A little preparation can go a long way toward preventing driving accidents this winter:
• Check tire depth. Replace tires when tread depth is less than 1/16 of an inch or the wear bars show. Insert a penny into the tread head first. If you see the space above Lincoln’s head, it is time for new tires.
• Inspect windshield wipers. If they feel stiff, or if they chip or leave streaks, replace the rubber.
• Be prepared. Put windshield scrapers, small brooms for ice and snow removal, and kitty litter in your vehicle. If you get stuck, spread the litter in front of and behind your wheels for traction.
• Fill the windshield washer reservoirs. Use washer fluid that includes ammonia for cutting grease and detergents that reduce the possibility of freezing.
• Plan your trip. Avoid bridges, overpasses and places where water crosses pavement. They are usually the first places to freeze. Plan to slow down, leave early or reschedule appointments.
• Buckle up. Make sure everyone wears their seat belt and that child safety seats are installed properly.
• Do not drink and drive. Most of us know this, but it’s worth repeating: Alcohol can impair your judgment, vision and reaction speed.
• Know what you’re getting into. Call the Texas Department of Transportation at (800) 452-9292, or visit http://www.dot.state.tx.us/travel/ to check weather and driving conditions. Visit the National Weather Service at
   www.nws.noaa.gov for nationwide weather.

During your drive
Stay home during hazardous conditions if possible. If you have to leave the house:
• Eliminate distractions. Turn off the radio, cell phone and other distractions. Ask your children to be quiet so you can concentrate on the road.
• Pay attention. Slow down, and pay attention to the way your tires grip the road. This gives you an early warning about slippery surfaces. Watch for standing water and shiny layers of slippery ice. Use the emergency lights 
   if you are driving slower than other traffic.
• Keep a safe following distance. On slick roads, keep at least five seconds between you and the car in front of you.
• Master the fish tail. Fish tailing happens when your car’s rear end slips from side to side. Slow down until you feel all four tires grip the road. Resist the temptation to brake. If you brake, do it gently. If you have anti-lock  
   brakes, apply gentle, steady pressure.
• Steer clear of skids. If you’re in a skid, don’t panic. Remove your foot from the accelerator, take a deep breath and turn the steering wheel in the direction the car is sliding. This technique is especially important on sheet 
   ice, which forms when water sheets across a thin slope, such as an embankment.
• Use the shoulder. The rough surface may give better traction.

For more information, visit http://www.safercar.gov, http://www.carcare.org, http://www.osha.gov.

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