Harsh winter weather is hazardous for drivers and their passengers. Here are ways to prepare and stay safe:
WHAT TO CARRY IN YOUR CAR
For maximum safety during the winter, carry these items in your vehicle at all times:
Small shovel and sand or kitty litter
Ice scraper and brush
Cell phone, if you have one
Flashlight and extra batteries
A red flag or cloth to signal for help
First aid supplies
Check your vehicle's ignition and fuel systems, belts, fluid levels, brakes and exhaust system. Also check your wiper blades and windshield washer fluid, tire tread and pressure, and the defroster. Use the proper grade oil for your vehicle, and check the cooling system, battery, lights and antifreeze.
TIRE, CHAIN ADVICE
Winter weather calls for winter tires on your vehicle. Here are tips to remember:
Talk to your vehicle or tire dealer about what’s best for your car or truck.
Approved traction tires have at least an eighth of an inch of tread and are labeled "Mud and Snow," "M+S," "MS," "All Season," or have a "Mountain/Snowflake" symbol. Such tires can be used year-round.
Studded tires are legal, but only from Nov.1 to March 31.
Tire chains – whether cross link, cable chains or plastic or nylon chains – are legal for passenger vehicles when “chains required” signs are posted.
Make sure you know how to put your tire chains on, and take them off. Do a trial run before it snows so you're familiar with them.
WHILE YOU'RE ON THE ROAD
Fill the gas tank before entering open country, even for a short distance, and stop to fill up long before the tank begins to run low. Keeping your tank as full as possible will minimize condensation and provide the maximum advantage in case of trouble.
Buckle your seat belts.
Don't tailgate! It takes three to nine times longer to stop on rain, snow and ice. Reduce your speed gradually before you reach stop signs, traffic lights or curves in the road.
Avoid streets that are hazardous in bad weather, such as those with hills, dangerous curves or heavy traffic.
Listen to traveler's advisories and weather reports. Be prepared to stay off the roads if advised to do so. Check wsdot.wa.gov or call 511 for state highway and freeway information.
Brake as little as possible on icy hills. If you must brake, do so gently.
In fog, drive with your headlights set on dim or use fog lights. If the fog is too dense, pull off the roadway and stop in a safe area where you can be seen by other vehicles.
Keep your windows clear of snow and ice. Do not start until your windshield is defrosted.
Road conditions can vary depending on the sun, shade and the road surface. Watch for slick spots, especially under bridges, on overpasses and in shaded spots.
If the pavement is covered with ice or snow, start slowly and brake gently. If you start to slide, ease off the gas pedal or brakes. Steer into the direction of the skid until you feel you have regained traction, then straighten your vehicle.
Be careful after a minor rear-end accident. If you are bumped from behind and you do not feel comfortable exiting your vehicle, motion the other driver and drive to the nearest police station, 24-hour store, service station, hospital or fire station. Do not pull over until it is safe to do so.
IF YOU GET STUCK
Stay with your car unless there is a house in sight.
Make sure your exhaust pipes are free of snow.
Put on layers of clothing and wrap in a blanket.
Keep your blood circulating by clapping your hands and stomping your feet.
Run the car engine 15 minutes with at least 15 minutes in-between. Crack a window for ventilation.
Watch for other vehicles on the road and be ready to signal for help.
UNLOCKING A FROZEN CAR
Here's some advice to ease the aggravation:
Don't force the matter – keys can break.
Try using a lubricant, such as CorrosionXor WD-40, to get the key to turn.
Consider lubricating your door locks before times of freezing weather, to prevent problems.
If the entire door is frozen shut, don't use water to open it. Warm water might crack the window, and while the water might melt the ice, it will soon freeze again. Instead, keep pulling at the door to get it to open.