Winter Driving Requires Caution, Planning

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According to the National Weather Service, the current winter storm in Arizona could create hazardous road conditions across the state this weekend.

As a result, AAA Arizona is cautioning all motorists — from Valley commuters facing slippery roads to snow-bound Flagstaff travelers — to drive carefully this week and through the remainder of the season.

“Winter weather can make for especially dangerous road conditions,” said Linda Gorman, director of public affairs for AAA Arizona.

“While we encourage motorists to drive carefully in all weather conditions, we implore them to take additional precautions in inclement weather.”

With a winter weather mix moving into the state this week, AAA Arizona recommends drivers follow these tips for safe winter driving:

• When traveling, check road conditions before you leave. Motorists can call Arizona Department of Transportation’s road condition hotline at 511 or visit their Web site at www.az511.com for the latest conditions on Arizona’s roadways.

• Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.

• Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles.

• Do not over-pack your vehicle. It is more difficult to stop a heavy vehicle in wet weather.

• Do not engage your vehicle’s cruise control. Using cruise control on wet roads or during heavy rain can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

• Let someone know your route and when you will arrive at your destination.

• Pack an emergency car kit that includes a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, a little tool kit, cell phone, duct tape nonperishable food, water and blankets.

Last winter, from Dec. 2007 to Feb. 2008, AAA Arizona’s Emergency Road Service responded to 97,097 calls for roadside service. Many of these calls were for failures that could have been prevented with preventative maintenance.

To ensure a vehicle is prepared to handle wet weather and colder temperatures, AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle in for a quick vehicle check, or conduct one themselves. The vehicle check should include:

• Tires — Check the air pressure and that your spare is properly inflated and in good condition.

• Check your headlights and brake lights. Inclement weather creates poor visibility making it difficult to see other drivers, and difficult for other drivers to see you. As a result, is imperative that your vehicle lights are in proper working order.

• Battery — Batteries can lose 35 percent of their power when temperatures fall to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Before leaving for your trip, or if your battery is more than two years old, be sure to have it tested.

• Fluids. If you are traveling to the high country, be sure to check all fluid levels. Be sure oil is changed every 3,000 miles and that radiator fluid, or coolant, is capable of withstanding temperatures of at least 35 degrees below zero in order to prevent your engine from overheating.

• Wiper blades — Check to ensure wiper blades work properly. You do not want to be caught in a rain or snowstorm when you find out they no longer function properly. In addition, be sure to top off windshield washer fluid with a nonfreezing solvent if you are headed to a particularly cold destination.

“A motorist’s safety in winter weather all comes down to preparation,” said Gorman.

“Taking the time to slow down, knowing how to navigate certain situations such as ice and snow and a quick vehicle check all take minimal time and money but go a long way in ensuring not only the safety of the motorist, but also their passengers and everyone else on the roads.”

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