Winter Travel Safety

     BINGHAMTON, NY - An average drive across town requires the same basic safe driving habits we practice all the time - using seatbelts, driving alert and sober, adhering to the speed limits and obeying the rules of the road. However, the list of safe driving requirements expands as the temperature drops and snow and ice become the norm. Because winter travel can be hazardous, be sure to follow three simple steps to make sure that you and your passengers are safe. First, drive at a reasonable speed for conditions. Second, leave plenty of time for traveling. Third, be aware of pedestrians crossing the street and brake in advance to slow your vehicle down to avoid sliding.

"Each year, many New Yorkers find themselves stranded on the roadside because they have not taken the necessary precautions to prepare themselves or their vehicles for a travel emergency," said Lucas Davis, Traffic Safety Coordinator for the Broome County Health Department and the Broome County Traffic Safety Board.

Make sure you're ready for the winter season. The Broome County Health Department recommends the following safety tips for winter travel:

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid a gas line freeze.
  • Stock your car with basic winter driving equipment: a scraper, brush, shovel, jumper cables, tow chain, a bag of sand for tire traction, road flares, a blanket, and a flashlight with batteries.
  • Assemble winter survival kits for all of your cars. Each kit should include bottled water and snack foods; candle stubs and matches, which can be used to melt snow for drinking water; a red bandana and plastic whistle to alert rescuers to your location; pencil and paper, and a first aid kit with any essential medications.
  • Avoid traveling alone. Before getting on the road, advise someone at your destination of your travel route and expected arrival time.
  • Consider keeping a cellular phone in your car for use during emergencies and keep it charged at all times.

"If your car has been outside during a snowfall, brush off all the snow, including the top of the car, before starting out. Pay particular attention to cleaning off headlights and taillights so that other motorists can see you," advised Mr. Davis.

Be sure to increase your distance from the car in front of you. "Keep in mind that bridges and overpasses can be more slippery than other parts of the road," he warned. "If you begin to skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and turn in the direction of the skid. If you have an antilock braking system (ABS), apply a steady, firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.

If you find yourself stranded, stay calm and stay in your car. "This will decrease your risk of frostbite or hypothermia and increase your chances of being rescued," said Mr. Davis. "Run your engine for heat about once every hour. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear to avoid any backup of carbon monoxide. Leave one window slightly open. Tie a piece of brightly-colored cloth to your antenna or door handle to alert others and aid rescuers."

For more information about safe driving and winter survival kits, contact the Broome County Health Department at 607.778.2807, or the American Red Cross.