Northeast Times

Winterize your driving strategy

  • Safety first: December is one of the most dangerous months to be on the road, according to a PennDOT report focusing on crash statistics in 2012. AAA put out a list of winter driving tips. In short, allow plenty of space between vehicles, don’t speed and try not to slam on the brakes in an emergency. JACK FIRNENO / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Safety first: December is one of the most dangerous months to be on the road, according to a PennDOT report focusing on crash statistics in 2012. AAA put out a list of winter driving tips. In short, allow plenty of space between vehicles, don’t speed and try not to slam on the brakes in an emergency. JACK FIRNENO / TIMES PHOTOS

Winter be­gins this Sat­urday, and that means only one thing.

No, not an­oth­er ugly Christ­mas sweat­er from Aunt Gladys. Well, hope­fully not.

The winter sea­son will likely bring bad weath­er and even worse driv­ing con­di­tions, which trans­lates to fend­er bend­ers, crashes and a myri­ad of oth­er head­aches for drivers.

In fact, ac­cord­ing to PennDOT’s 2012 Crash Facts book, there were more car crashes in Decem­ber than in any oth­er month of the year, with 12,389 re­por­ted crashes throughout the month.

So what is the best way to stay on the road and out of the body shop?

“Really the No. 1 thing is to slow down,” Jenny Robin­son, a spokes­wo­man for AAA Mid-At­lantic, said in a phone in­ter­view. “You want to have room to man­euver and main­tain con­trol without hit­ting any­one else.”

It’s simple ad­vice, but in the heat of the mo­ment on an ice-cold night, it can save drivers money and time.

In fact, Robin­son said that if you feel your­self los­ing con­trol of your vehicle, it’s best to try to re­main calm and, most im­port­antly, “don’t slam on the brakes.”

“It’s bet­ter to take your foot off the gas and gently brake and stay as calm as you can,” Robin­son said. “Sud­den brak­ing can lead to a loss of con­trol, par­tic­u­larly when trav­el­ing in icy con­di­tions more than 25 miles per hour. I know that’s very hard if you’re fa­cing an im­min­ent situ­ation but if you can keep your wits about you, you’re much bet­ter off.”

Robin­son also high­lighted some of AAA’s oth­er tips for driv­ing in the winter, which in­clude check­ing your tires and wiper blades routinely and keep­ing an emer­gency road kit on hand. 

Your road kit should in­clude a flash­light with fresh bat­ter­ies, jump­er cables, sand or cat lit­ter and an ice scraper and snow brush. 

Adding to the dif­fi­culties of winter driv­ing is the fact that the hol­i­day sea­son co­in­cides with bad driv­ing weath­er.

While com­mon know­ledge sug­gests that New Year’s Eve might be the most dan­ger­ous night for driv­ing, PennDOT stat­ist­ics show that this isn’t the case any­more. In fact, ac­cord­ing to last year’s Crash Facts book, New Year’s was one of the more tame hol­i­days in terms of crashes, with only 766 ac­ci­dents and five fatal­it­ies. 

“The pop­u­lar per­cep­tion is that it’s very dan­ger­ous but a lot of people have heeded the warn­ings,” Robin­son said, not­ing that crash stat­ist­ics for New Year’s and Christ­mas are down. “It’s still im­port­ant to not be com­pla­cent about it and make sure that whatever you plan for the hol­i­days is done safely.”

Bill Brady, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Bucks Trans­port­a­tion Man­age­ment Agency, a trans­port­a­tion ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tion, said that his or­gan­iz­a­tion en­cour­ages drivers to take pre­cau­tions dur­ing the winter to avoid ac­ci­dents.

“There’s a lot of in­form­a­tion out there and a lot to con­sider, but we tend to take driv­ing for gran­ted,” Brady said. “We’re look­ing for street signs or listen­ing to the ra­dio. It’s a very dan­ger­ous situ­ation, es­pe­cially in bad weath­er.”

Brady said that drivers should com­pletely clear snow off of their cars be­fore driv­ing, as loose snow can be haz­ard­ous to oth­er drivers. Fur­ther­more, he ad­ded that keep­ing head­lights on can help to en­sure that oth­er drivers can see you, even in snowy con­di­tions.

And as for the hol­i­days?

“Po­lice de­part­ments have shown that people take more risks dur­ing the hol­i­days,” Brady said. “You need to really eval­u­ate what you want to do and be safe.” ••

For more driv­ing tips for the winter months, vis­it tm­abucks.com.

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