Local News

If you must drive, prepare, take care

Posted January 29, 2010

In light of forecast snow, sleet and ice, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Highway Patrol is asking motorists to stay at home, if at all possible.

"If you don't need to drive, don't be on the roads, please," Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon says. "That's the No. 1 thing."

Driving in snow? Follow this advice Driving in snow? Follow this advice

But if you must, here's some tips on navigating the roads safely:

  • Clear your vehicle's windows and mirrors.
  • Reduce your speed. Driving at the regular speed limit will reduce your ability to control the car if you begin to slide. Do not use cruise control.
  • On a four-lane highway, stay in the clearest lane and drive only in paths that are already cleared. Do not try to change lanes.
  • Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles. Highway safety experts recommend keeping the distance of four cars between you and other vehicles for every 10 mph you're driving.
  • Bridges and overpasses accumulate ice first. Approach them with extreme caution, and do not apply your brakes while on the bridge.
  • If you do begin to slide, take your foot off the gas, and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car.
  • Come to a complete stop or yield the right-of-way at intersections where traffic lights are out. Treat this situation as a four-way stop.
  • If you have a cellular phone, take it with you. You can call the Highway Patrol statewide by dialing *HP (*47) or call the local county emergency center by dialing 911. Call 511 for information about highway travel conditions; do not call 911 for that information.

If you become trapped in your car:

  • Pull off the highway; stay calm, and remain in your vehicle. At night, turn on the inside dome light, so work and rescue crews can see you.
  • Set your directional lights to "flashing," and hang a cloth or distress flag from the radio aerial or window. In a rural or wilderness area, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract attention of rescue crews who might be surveying the area by airplane.
  • Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.
  • If you run the engine to keep warm, open a window slightly for ventilation. This will protect you from possible carbon-monoxide poisoning. Periodically, clear away snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers, and use your coat as a blanket.
  • Never let everyone in the car sleep at once. One person should stay awake to look out for rescue crews.
  • Be careful not to use battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat and radio – with your supply.

If you are involved in a wreck, here are some ways to prevent further injuries, reduce costs and speed up the repair process:

  • Protect yourself from the start. Use your cell phone or a camera to take photos of the scene and the vehicles involved.
  • Move the vehicles and all of the people involved well out of the way so they don't cause another wreck.
  • Before you have your vehicle towed to a repair shop, get references and check the shop's status with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Since the average crash repair costs more than $2,200, get a written estimate before any work begins.
  • Have patience. Severe weather often means it will be busy at auto repair shops.
  • If the wreck is minor, you and the other driver might decide to handle the damages without involving insurance companies. There are risks, however: You or the other driver might later change your mind; the other driver might claim injuries, and that could create more problems than just higher insurance rates.

Consider these tips for winterizing your vehicle:

  • Squeak-proof your wipers with rubbing alcohol or ammonia. It can make badly streaking and squeaking wipers change to near-perfect silence and clarity.
  • Keep your headlights clear with car wax. It can last up to six weeks and contains special water repellents that will prevent messy mixture from accumulating.
  • Ice-proof your windows with vinegar. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which raises the melting point of water, preventing it from freezing. Fill a spray bottle with three parts vinegar to one part water and spray it on your windows at night.
  • Prevent car doors from freezing shut with cooking spray! Spray cooking oil on the rubber seals around car doors & rub it in with a paper towel. The cooking spray prevents water from melting into the rubber.
  • De-ice your door locks with hand sanitizer.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • SatelliteBgan Feb 1, 2010

    I can't believe it (well yes I can). I just heard on the 6pm news that Wake Co. Teachers were upset they have to go to work when the kids do not. Come on Teachers, this is your time to catch up. Oh, by the way, in the private sector where I work, can you imagine me telling my boss that because my wife does not have to go to work I'm not showing up for work either. Teachers, Take some Responsibility and forget you are a Government employee and pretend your job is not secure and you work in the real world.

  • Journey985 Feb 1, 2010

    Hwy 55 in Wake county was awesome, the moment I crossed into Durham County it was a disaster!!! Hwy 54, and Davis Drive were not any better, so what gives? These are major arteries through NC and no sign of plowing? Do the road crews even know HOW to plow properly? (I have no problem plowing thank you all before the comments even start!!) it took me an extra 10 mins to get to work in my 4WD, the reson why??? An idiot driving to work in his Gray Jaguar!! and a line of cars going 10 miles an hour...People, if you are not comfortable driving in this, then please...stay home or wait and let the rest of us drive to work without worrying if you are going to lose it!!

  • Da Toy Maker Feb 1, 2010

    What is scary is the people still flying down the roads as usual:

    Tailgating, passing on the ice/snow cover portion of the road.

    Drove my wife to work at around 9:00AM. If you have to be out, please be careful and slow down. There are a lot of icy spot on the roads even with major local roads. Is making to where ever you are going on time worth the risk or spinning out and crash (Best case if you hit the icy patch) worth it?

  • kittiboo Feb 1, 2010

    The bit about clearing off mirrors and windows- what about the REST of the car? I saw a complete moron yesterday who had cleared off a small circular patch on her front windshield just in front of her, and that was IT!!! You could see her struggling to see out the front window. If I had had time I would've taken a pic AND her license number to call the cops. How lazy can you GET?!

  • NCPictures Feb 1, 2010

    "This news article is mostly for you, SUV drivers. ...'cuz your 4-wheel drive is useless on ice...and your top heavy box-of-a-vehicle just loves to rollover. so, ya better be extra careful

    Or, those of us in front wheel drive cars will be waving as we cruise by you in the ditch. ;-)

    HA. I have a front wheel drive vehicle and a Ford Expedition. The Expedition gets by just fine. The front wheel drive cant make it up a hill.

    If you know how to use 4 wheel drive, you CAN get by on ice. And much better than your front wheel drive. The fact that you think you will be waving at an SUV in the ditch is truly scary. It just proves you do not know how to drive on this stuff. I have a number of locals asking me to drive them into work today as they do not feel safe driving themselves. Hats off to them as they are at least aware of their limits. You on the other hand....

  • LMRA Jan 29, 2010

    colliedave - I was planning on going to the game. The Blackhawks are playing great - thought it would be a good game to see. The way they're talking about the weather Saturday night, it sounds like they could play it in the parking lot!

    The 'hawks are flying in from California. I wonder if they're here in NC yet? There is a chance they may not make it!

  • Putang Jan 29, 2010

    I have been to New York state while there was snow. people drive fast. 60+ on the interstate with snow on it. do that in NC and see where it gets you. thats the problem, too many people come down here thinking its the same stuff that falls up north

  • magsgundah Jan 29, 2010

    Clean your car thoroughly.
    Have a coat, a blanket, some bottled water and a cell phone.
    Leave extra time to get where you're going and drive carefully.

    Yes, us dratted Yankees do drive a *little* better in the snow (SNOW, *not* ICE, nobody can drive in ice) than you southerners, but only because we've had MORE PRACTICE. If we don't slow down, if we don't turn with the skid, if we slam on the brakes, if we don't gently let up on the gas, we're going to wreck just like anyone else. Basically, the trick to driving in snow is "Don't panic, slow down and use common-sense."

    I don't think there's any reason to just stay home for a little snow - but ice is an entirely different story. Ice is dangerous and yeah, if we get ice, nobody should be out who doesn't need to be.

  • mulecitybabe Jan 29, 2010

    HereandNow. I have a 4 wheel drive truck and a front wheel drive car. Guess which one I'll be taking? Oh, and I'm a nurse, so if you wind up in sliding off the road while you're waving at people in ditches, I'll see you at the hospital, K?

  • Putang Jan 29, 2010

    i got a jacked up 4wd. i'll be out doing donuts and climbing hills :)