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Winterizing Your Vehicle to Prevent Auto Accidents

It's that time of year again!  The temperatures are dropping, the wind is blowing and snow is in the forecast!  It is also the time of year when vechicle batteries die, windows ice over, windshield wipers freeze, snow covers your car and all the while snow drifts and ice cover the road.  This year,take the time to not only be prepared for a traffic accident, but to prevent one from happening to you.  Here are a few tips on how to winterize your vehicle, properly remove snow and ice from your vehicle and hopefully avoid an accident!

There are several tips out there on how to properly prepare your vehicle for the winter season. 
It is important to do so, not only for the preservation of your vehicle, but to keep you from breaking down and getting stranded on the side of the road.  (Or worse yet, causing an accident by stalling in the road.)

First of all, it is important to use the correct type of oil for your vehicle during the winter months.  The best way to learn what type of oil your vehicle requires is by checking the owner's manual or consulting with your mechanic.  Many cars require a thinner oil be used in the winter months.  For example, if you use 10W-30 during the summer months, you may want to switch to 5W-30 for the winter months.  Again, if you are unsure what type of oil your car takes, consult your owner's manual or a mechanic. It is also important to check your battery during the winter months.  Cold weather can reduce your battery capacity and cause your vehicle not to start or to stall.  There are handheld hydrometers that can be used to check to see if your battery is fully charged.  Some batteries have a built in hydrometer for convenience.  You will also need to check your battery's cables,terminals and fluids for cracks or breaks.  If your battery is fully charged (check your owner's
manual for suggested battery voltages) and you don't see any cracks or breaks in the lines or cables, then your battery should be good to go this winter!

Not only should you maintain your vehicle to ensure your safety on the roads, but there are also
tools available to help you when driving in snow and ice.  Snow tires are one option to prepare your vehicle for slippery road conditions.  However, not all people can afford different tires for different seasons.  If this is the case for you then make sure to check your tire pressure regularly, clear your tire wells of built up snow and ice, or look into buying all-season tires that help maintain your car's handling during the entire year.

Windshield wiper fluid is another useful tool when driving in snow and ice.  Mud and grime kicked up by vehicles in front of you on the highway can make driving in winter conditions even scarier. Check to make sure your wiper fluid container is filled with an antifreeze solution and that your wipers are free of cracks that can hinder their clearing ability.  Also, check to make sure your wipers are not frozen to your windshield prior to driving. Completely removing all snow and ice from your windshields and wipers before driving will help you keep a clear windshield while on the road.

A sturdy ice scraper with a brush attached is another helpful tool in the winter months. It's not
only important to clear your windows and windshields of ice and snow prior to driving your car, but other areas of your vehicle as well.  Check to make sure your headlights and taillights are uncovered and visible.  Clear any loose snow from the top of your vehicle to prevent it from falling into the roadway and causing another car to crash.  Also, check to make sure your tailpipe is clear of snow to prevent gases from backing up into your engine and the cab of your vehicle.

An emergency kit is useful any time of the year, but especially in winter months.  Here are a few
items you may want to keep in your car in case of an emergency on the side of the road:

1.  Blankets for warmth if your heater is inoperable and you must wait for assistance;

2.  Boots (if you aren't already wearing them) in case you must exit your vehicle after an   
     accident or to get your vehicle unstuck;
3.  Extra washer fluid with antifreezing solution, extra engine oil, and extra coolant;
4.  A flashlight with extra batteries;
5.  A shovel;
6.  Jumper cables;
7.  Properly inflated spare tire;
8.  A bag of salt or kitty litter to help with traction when trying to get a vehicle unstuck;
9.  Flares to warn other drivers of your presence on the roadway; and
10. A First Aid Kit.

Although winterizing your vehicle and properly clearing your vehicle of ice and snow are useful
when trying to prevent an accident in the winter months, how you drive is probably the biggest factor to preventing accidents.  If you must drive in snowy or icy conditions, be careful and use common sense. 

SLOW DOWN when there is ice and snow on the roadways.  Be aware of the possibility of black ice
patches.  Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you in case of sudden stops. Brake gently to avoid skidding.  Turn on your headlights when using your wipers or on a dreary day to help other drivers see you better.  Avoid using your cruise control on icy roads.  If you drive a truck or SVU, don't assume your vehicle can handle the roadways better than any others. It is still possible for these vehciles to slide on ice and snow.  If you do begin to skid and have anti-lock brakes, do NOT pump your brakes!  Apply a steady pressure until your vehicle stops.  If you have standard brakes and begin to slide, pump them gently to stop your vehicle. Do not try to drive through snow packed streets unless your vehicle is designed to do so to
prevent from getting stuck.  It is also very important to give utility trucks that are either removing snow or treating the roadways for ice plenty of room.  They are out there to try to help make the roads safer, so be aware of them and have some patience!

Hopefully these tips and tools will keep you or your loved one from experiencing a traffic
accident this winter.  However, accidents do happen!  If you are involved in an accident, remember to get your vehicle off the roadway if possible.  This will help to prevent further accidents from occurring behind you.  You will need to notify the police in order to fill out a report.  If there are injuries, call 911.  Collect contact and insurance information from all drivers involved and be prepared to provide yours.  If you find yourself in need of further
advice, contact a reputable attorney to assist you.   

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