The holidays and winter weather are upon Lassen County, which means many residents might be traveling more, and often in adverse driving conditions.
Now is the perfect time to remind veteran winter drivers, as well as those who are new to driving in the snow, about some tips that might keep everyone a bit safer this winter.
The number one winter driving tip is “slow down.”
When accelerating, braking and steering, do so carefully. Sudden tugs of the wheel or a stomp on the brakes can cause the car to slide out of control.
Caltrans and county road department crews do their best to keep the roads clear, but no amount of plowing or sand will help in the absence of common sense and/or speeds that are too fast for the conditions.
It is also important to remember that four-wheel or all-wheel drive does not mean all-wheel stop. Braking is the great equalizer in the snow. Considering that all-wheel-drive systems add extra weight to a vehicle, one could be at a disadvantage while trying to slam on the brakes on an icy curve or intersection.
In addition to the preparations and driving tips suggested by Caltrans, be sure to regularly check Caltrans for the current road conditions.
Caltrans operates the Caltrans Highway Information Network, (800) 427-7623, for up-to-the-minute information in California and Western Nevada. The network is updated as conditions change, and is voice-activated for safety and convenience. The website, dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi posts current road conditions and has access to cameras throughout the region.
Winter Driving tips from Caltrans
Preparations to drive:
•Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust system are in top condition.
•Check your antifreeze and be ready for colder temperatures. You may need to add concentrated windshield washer fluid to the windshield washer fluid reservoir to prevent an icy windshield. More information about this type of windshield washer fluid can be found on the California Air Resources Board web site.
•Check your tires. Make sure they are properly inflated and the tread is in good condition.
•Always carry chains. Make sure they are the proper size for your tires and are in working order. You might want to take along a flashlight and chain repair links. Chains must be installed on the drive wheels. Make sure you know if your vehicle is front or rear wheel drive.
Other suggested items to carry in your car are an ice scraper or commercial de-icer, a broom for brushing snow off your car, a shovel to free you car if it is “snowed in,” sand or burlap for traction if your wheels should become mired in snow and an old towel to clean your hands.
It is also a good idea to take along water, food, warm blankets and extra clothing. A lengthy delay will make you glad you have them.
Weather conditions may warrant detouring traffic from the main roadway. It is strongly suggested that drivers always keep an updated map containing the areas of travel. If you have a cellular telephone, pre-load the Caltrans Highway Information Network phone numbers for convenient updated road conditions.
Put an extra car key in your pocket. A number of motorists have locked themselves out of their cars when putting on chains and at ski areas.
Allow enough time. Trips to the mountains can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or icy roads. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
•Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.
•Keep windshield and windows clear. You may want to stop at a safe turnout to use a snowbrush or scraper. Use the car defroster and a clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog.
•Slow down. A highway speed of 65 miles per hour may be safe in dry weather, but an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt buckled and leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Bridge decks and shady spots can be icy when other areas are not. Remember to avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
•Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles that have flashing lights, visibility may be so restricted during a storm that it is difficult to see the slow moving equipment.
•When stalled, stay with your vehicle and try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth. Be alert to any possible exhaust or monoxide problems.
•You must stop and put on chains when highway signs indicate chains are required. You can be cited by the California Highway Patrol and fined if you don’t. You will usually have about a mile between “chains required” signs and the checkpoint to install your chains.