California has had its first taste of cold, wet weather, and while people prepare for holiday travel, the oncoming winter season and the onslaught of more rain and snow, the California Office of Traffic Safety wants to remind motorists of the importance of staying safe and alert when driving in dangerous conditions.
"The coming weeks are sure to bring heavy holiday traffic and more wet weather, so exercising extreme caution when hitting the roadways is incredibly important," Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety said.
The following tips are designed to help California drivers safely navigate wet, snowy and icy roadways during the holiday travel time:
- Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, anti-freeze, heater and exhaust system are in top condition.
- Check your tires. Make sure they are properly inflated and the tread is in good condition.
- Allow extra time for traveling in rain or snow. Slow down. Maintain a proper following distance and vehicle speed for the current weather conditions.
- Buckle up! It's the best way to survive a crash.
- If it's raining, keep your vehicle toward the middle lanes since water tends to pool in outside lanes.
- Remain alert. Constantly scan the road for brake lights in front of you. If possible, avoid using your brakes and take your foot off the accelerator to slow down, tapping it lightly to signal those behind you that you are slowing.
- Turn your headlights on in rainy, foggy or overcast conditions to help you see the road and to help you remain visible to other drivers. Use low beam in fog or snow.
- Never drive through moving water if you are unable to see the ground through it, or are unsure of the depth -- your vehicle could be swept away.
- When you need to stop or slow down in wet conditions, don't brake hard or lock the wheels. Instead, maintain steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Do not use cruise control during wet or snowy road conditions. Cruise control can cause skidding and loss of tire traction in winter conditions.
If you find yourself hydroplaning or skidding, remember the following:
- Do not brake or turn suddenly. Ease your foot off the gas until the vehicle slows and you can feel traction on the road again.
- Turn your steering wheel in the direction of the skid and as you recover control, gently straighten the wheels.
- If you need to brake, do so gently with light pumping action. If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally, because the vehicle's computer will mimic a pumping action.
- Always carry chains that are the proper size for your tires and are in working order. It is also important that you know how to install the chains on your vehicle. Winter weather is really unpredictable and you don't want to be stuck in a snowstorm.
- If conditions are really bad, drive only if it is absolutely necessary. Travel during daytime hours and don't travel alone. Inform others of your schedule and destination prior to departure. Be sure to stay on main roads, avoid shortcuts or back roads.
- Minimize distractions. Turn off your cell phone and/or put it out of reach. Include in your outgoing message that you can't answer while you are driving. Don't call or text anyone at a time when you think they may be driving.
- Fighting a cold, pain or sleepless night? Watch out for prescription and over-the-counter medications that can make you drowsy or worse.
- Pack plenty of water, food, warm blankets and extra clothing, as sometimes road closures make for lengthy traffic delays. Also, be sure your gas tank is full; it may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.
- Keep an emergency kit in your trunk for safety, comfort and possible repairs. For suggested contents, visit http://www.ots.ca.gov/roadsideemergencykit.asp .
- For the latest, real-time travel conditions, Caltrans encourages you to visit http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ or call (800) 427-7623. However, if you need to check road conditions, have a passenger call for you or pull over to a safe place before calling.
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