Experts advise motorists to avoid driving in bad weather whenever possible. If you must drive, check local information for weather, construction or accidents that might affect your trip--before you head out. Also, have phone numbers handy for getting information about road conditions. Departments of transportation can be excellent resources. Additionally, many states offer a free 511 traveler-information service.
It's smart to have your vehicle winterized before the season hits. Be sure your brakes, wipers, defroster, headlights and heater are all working properly.
Knowing your vehicle's braking system is important, too. When roads are slippery, it's easy to start skidding. Most of today's vehicles are equipped with Antilock Braking Systems (or ABS brakes), which require constant pressure to work properly. This is different from older braking systems that many of us were told to "pump" when using, so check your owner's manual to see how your car is equipped.
You may want to consider a driver's safety course from an organization such as AARP as well. The group's classes provide tips to help people stay safe when dealing with hazardous weather conditions. Here are a few to consider:
• Turn on your headlights to increase your visibility to all motorists and pedestrians, and keep your lights clean and free of ice or debris.
• Stay alert. Look ahead to give yourself more time to react safely to any situation. This includes reducing your speed and increasing the distance between your car and the one in front of you. Remember that it takes more time to stop on icy roads.
• Take extra precautions on bridges, overpasses and shaded areas, which freeze first and remain icy longer than roads.
• In wet driving conditions, do not drive faster than the windshield wipers can clear water from the windshield.
For more information and to find either an online or classroom driver's safety course, call (866) 955-6301 or visit www.aarp.org/safety. Depending on insurance providers and state regulations, certain participants may be eligible to receive a discount on their auto insurance premiums.