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Important tips for safe winter driving

A plow helps clear snow after a car

A plow helps clear snow after a car is disabled on the ramp to the LIE at Exit 56 in Hauppauge on Feb. 9, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

Driving on snow- and ice-laden roads can be tricky even for experienced drivers. Follow these important tips to stay safe:

1. According to AAA, you should accelerate and decelerate slowly, as applying the gas slowly to accelerate helps you best in gaining traction and avoiding skids. It also takes longer to slow down on icy roads, so take extra time to slow down at a stoplight.
2. AAA also recommends driving slowly, because accelerating, stopping and turning all take longer on snow-covered roads, and won't happen as quickly as on dry pavement.
3. AAA also recommends increasing your following distance behind another vehicle from three to four seconds to eight or 10 seconds because if you need to stop, this will allow you a safer distance to brake.
4. If you’re approaching a hill, speed up on the flat roadway if you can before you start the incline, according to AAA, and use the momentum to go up the hill. Pressing the gas once on the hill can leave your wheels spinning. In addition, don’t stop while going up a hill as it makes it more difficult to get your car going again from a dead stop.
5. The New York State Department of Transportation says in order to avoid skids, brake carefully and gently on snow or ice. If your brakes lock up, ease off the brake pedal and you can also shift into a lower gear when driving at lower speeds.
6. Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. According to the state DOT, the safest place to drive is at least eight car lengths behind a moving plow because it creates a ridge of snow, kicks up a snow cloud and also has a blade that can extend up to 30 inches beyond the truck’s width.
7. NYS DOT also says that bridges and overpasses are likelier to freeze first, so use caution with slippery spots that may develop faster than on regular pavement.
1. According to the NYS DOT, you should stay with your vehicle because it’s your best shelter. Call 911 on your cellphone and report your situation.
2. The state DOT also recommends running the vehicle periodically for heat and light at least once an hour, or once every half-hour in extreme cold. You should also check to make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged.
3. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends putting markers on the antenna to let other drivers see you, as well as keeping your flashers on.
1. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fill up your gas tank before the storm — even in a hybrid-electric vehicle. You may use more gas than normal driving in a winter storm.
2. According to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office, make sure you leave extra time to reach your destination, and make sure you charge your cellphone or two-way radio before leaving for your destination. Plan ahead so you know the directions, and any alternate routes you can use if you encounter hazardous conditions.
3. The governor’s office also recommends letting someone know of your travel plans. In the event you get stuck, they know where you are.
4. Make sure your vehicle has items such as blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, warm clothing, tire chains, booster cable, quick energy foods and a bright cloth in case you need it as a distress flag, according to the office.
5. AAA recommends not driving in the snow when you’re tired.

6. NYS DOT reminds drivers to clear snow off all windows, wipers and the roof. You should also clear your headlights and taillights and make sure your lights are on, as it’s the law in New York state.

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