What you need to know before driving in snow, ice and other slick conditions. Plus, how to recover from a skid and what to pack in your vehicle.
Snow in the Puget Sound region is often wet and slick. Take extra care when driving:
• Before leaving home, check traffic and weather reports on TV, radio or websites. Statewide travel alerts and road conditions: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/
• Clear snow and ice from car surfaces before driving. Snow on the hood can blow toward the windshield and block your view.
• Keep safety equipment, spare parts and food and water in the car. Keep your cellphone fully charged.
• Keep your fuel tank at least half full. Make sure your wiper-fluid reservoir isn’t running low.
• Drive with headlights on.
• Slow down. If possible, avoid driving altogether.
• Even when roads are dry, watch out for icy bridges.
• Stay at least 15 car-lengths (200 feet) back from maintenance vehicles and plows, and don’t pass them on the right.
• Don’t use cruise control.
• Use brakes sparingly to avoid skidding.
• Don’t pump anti-lock brakes to stop.
• If you need to pull over, the State Patrol asks you to stay with your vehicle, where you’ll be safer. Call for help or hang a colorful piece of cloth from your window or antenna.
How to recover from a rear-wheel skid:
More winter-driving tips at: www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter/
What should be in your car disaster kit:
• Windshield scraper: A must. Also, a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can come in handy.
• Tire chains and tow strap: Practice putting chains on your vehicle’s tires before heading into snow or icy conditions. Why practice? You might have to do the job on a mountain road — in the dark.
• Blankets, winter hat, warm clothes, boots: If your car runs out of fuel or your battery dies, it won’t be able to provide heat. A blanket and hat will keep you warm, particularly if roadside assistance does not arrive for some time. And of course you’ll need a coat, hat, boots and gloves if you have to exit the car. Inexpensive chemical hand warmers can provide additional warmth.
• Spare food and water: Enough for everyone in the car, in case you’re stuck for a while.
• Shovel: When a car gets bogged down in snow, a shovel becomes a vital tool. A small folding camp shovel will require more digging effort than a longer-handled shovel, but it’s more convenient to store in the vehicle.
• Bag of cat litter: The texture of cat litter can help provide traction on a slick road.
• Cellphone: It’s a lifeline if you’re snowbound. A car charger for it is a good idea.
• Jumper cables: Whether driving in ideal weather or in difficult conditions, jumper cables can be useful. But keep in mind that late-model cars with sophisticated electronics can be easily damaged by a jump start — you’re much better off making sure you have a viable battery before you drive the mountain passes.
Stormy weather tips
• Flashlight: A must. A headlamp is particularly useful. You’ll need it for all kinds of roadside situations, from installing tire chains to checking under the hood.
• Road flares: Useful for alerting a passing emergency vehicle of your need, but also for warning other drivers to slow down and steer clear of your situation.
More road resources:
Compiled from Seattle Times archives and McClatchy News Service