Don’t Slip-Slide Away This Winter!

The mild weather of November and now December not withstanding, winter will arrive in our neck of the woods and it’s important to remember and review safe winter driving tips. So let’s take a look at some helpful safety reminders before you go over the bridge and through the woods to grandma’s house for the holidays.

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  1. Have a list. Santa isn’t the only one that needs a list this time of year, you should have a pre-travel checklist to ensure a safe drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a comprehensive list at on their website. Grab a copy and use it to prepare for long trips and seasonal car check ups.
  2. Know before you go! The weather in New England can change quickly, so it’s important that you keep an eye on the weather forecast when planning your adventures and make sure your car is properly equipped with emergency supplies.
  3. Find a LOCAL radio station. With so many drivers using satellite radio, it’s important to have a few LOCAL radio stations that will allow you to check on upcoming weather as you make your way on down the road.
  4. Turn off cruise control! On long, fair weather trips I LOVE cruise control, but it should never be used for rainy, snowy or icy conditions. Cruise control works by sending constant power to maintain a set speed. In situations where you may hydroplane or start to slip, the instinct to hit the brakes to disengage the cruise control may make the skid/slip worse. When you encounter slippery conditions the first rule is simply let off the gas…and that seemingly small amount of time it takes to turn off cruise control is often enough to make the issue worse.
  5. Keep your car’s lights on when driving in rainy/wintry conditions. While you may not need them to see, they provide visibility to other drivers. And it’s the law in most states.
  6. Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. This may seem extreme if you are taking a long trip; but if you are traveling during winter it’s important to keep ample gas in case you end up stranded. Not only can having enough gas to turn on the vehicle in intervals to keep the occupants warm; the stops also allow you get out of the vehicle to stretch and refocus your mind, which helps fight road fatigue.
  7. Increase your following distance. The standard follow distance is recommended to be 3 to 4 seconds between your front bumper and the vehicle in front of you. You can establish this distance by choosing a landmark and time how long it takes you to get to it AFTER the vehicle in front of you passes it. But when road conditions are slippery or visibility is compromised you will want to increase that distance significantly, upwards of 8 seconds.
  8. Give those big rigs plenty of space. When you are passing an 18 wheeler, do not cut back in front of them after completing your pass. The time is take for them to stop or slow down is so much greater than a regular passenger vehicle. And in slippery conditions this could result in the tractor trailer “jack knifing” and cause serious issues for everyone on the road.
  9. Keep an eye on the temperature. The dreaded black ice will form on damp/wet roads when the temperature reaches 32F and happens quickly, so you may be unpleasantly surprised. If you car does not have an outside temperature gauge, you can purchase one for about $10 at an auto store or truck stop!
  10. Take your time. Plan your trip to allow for plenty of travel time to your destination and back home.

On The Road Again

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This Thanksgiving weekend an estimated 51 million people will take to the roads to travel to share their gratitude and a meal with their family and friends. There will be touch football games; first time meetings of new boyfriends/girlfriends; toasts of cheers and fond remembrances of those no longer with us. We will roast, grill or fry approximately 46 million turkeys that average 15 pounds (that A LOT of turkey!). Countless naps will take place due to an excess of mashed potatoes and gravy in our systems. And roughly 3.5 million people will jockey for position to watch the Macy’s Day Parade in New York City.

These are big numbers and the reason why if you are hitting the road for the holiday, you need to be extra cautious and give yourself plenty of travel time.

Before you embark on your journey make sure that your car is ready. Check the tire pressure (sudden drops in temperature can affect the integrity of your tires); check and top off fluids (washer, oil, brake, transmission) and have an emergency kit stored in the trunk or backseat. If you are traveling with children, make sure you have plenty of activities to keep them occupied…or plan to drive during nap time if they are great car sleepers!

Heading to the airport or train station? Make sure your luggage meets the standards set for flight or rail. Pack a few light snacks to ward off the travel crankies and make sure you keep your essentials with you in your carry on should you be checking bags as well. Make sure you arrive and check in with plenty of time so you don’t run the risk of missing your train/flight. I’m guess the turkey that your Aunt Mildred is cooking is worlds better than the turkey club sandwich the airport has to offer!

Be patient. Plan for extra travel time due to the increased volume on our roads, rails and in the air. Don’t fight too much with that cranky uncle that is constantly proclaiming, “Back in my day…”; enjoy the time with your family and friends; eat that extra serving of mashed potatoes or pie, you can walk it off after dinner; and most of all, enjoy the spirit of the the holiday.