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Tips From a Trooper: Know your car and be prepared

December 21, 2012

by Trooper Tommy Allen

It's winter time again and you know what they say about Oklahoma weather, if you don't like it just wait awhile and it will change soon. We never know what the weather is going to be or how much of it we may get. I would like to give out a few safety tips and a checklist to keep in mind this winter.

INSPECT YOUR TIRES

Before making a long trip always check your tires. This will only take 5 minutes or so. Check the tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle's manufacturers suggested PSI. This should be listed in your owner's manual and on a label inside the driver's door. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle at all times and check pressure when tires are cold meaning they haven't been driven on for at least three hours. Look closely at your tread and replace tires with uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 1/16 of an inch or greater on all tires.

KNOW YOUR CAR

Every vehicle handles somewhat differently; this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Take time now to learn how to best handle your vehicle under winter weather driving conditions. Practice cold weather driving when your area gets snow but not on a main road! Practice on an empty lot in full daylight. Drive slowly. It's harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, sufficiently increase your following distance so you'll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you. Know what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to use them properly. In general, if you have anti-lock brakes apply firm pressure, if you have non anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes gently. If you find yourself in a skid, stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.

PLAN YOUR TRAVEL AND ROUTE

Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather. Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic; plan to leave early if necessary. Don't rush! Allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Familiarize yourself with the directions and maps before you go, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time. Keep your gas tank close to full. If you get stuck in a traffic jam or in snow, you might need more fuel to get home or keep warm. Make sure to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when stuck in snow, be sure to keep your vehicle's exhaust pipe clear of snow and ice, run your vehicle only in the open with the windows partially down, and run it only long enough to keep warm. If road conditions are hazardous, avoid driving if possible. Wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle.

STOCK YOUR VEHICLE

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving tasks, such as cleaning off your windshield as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency. Keep the following on hand. Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper. Jumper cables, flashlight and warning devices, such as flares and markers. Blankets for protection from the cold. A cell phone, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas).

LEARN WHAT TO DO IN A WINTER EMERGENCY

If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, follow these safety rules; Stay with your car and don't overexert yourself. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light turned on. To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, don't run your car for long periods with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically, just long enough to stay warm!

If you have cell phone service call 911 or *55 on your cell phone for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol nearest you.

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