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.

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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.

Graphic: How to recover from a rear-wheel skid

Video: WSDOT on how to install tire chains

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: 

King County Road Services updates on closures and conditions

Snowplow and sanding route plan for city of Seattle

Compiled from Seattle Times archives and McClatchy News Service