AAA Releases Tips on Avoiding Winter Driving Dangers

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AAA Northern California urges motorists to get their vehicles ready and to refresh their winter driving skills

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AAA Montclair

Although summer auto crashes are more often fatal, fall and winter have the highest number of weather-related crashes, deaths and injuries.

As many regions across Northern and Central California are bracing for possible snow, rain, and cold temperatures over the next few days, AAA Northern California urges motorists to get their vehicles ready and to refresh their winter driving skills.

“Although summer auto crashes are more often fatal, fall and winter have the highest number of weather-related crashes, deaths and injuries,” reports Matt Skryja, AAA Northern California spokesperson. “The combination of poorly maintained vehicles and driver error, along with loss of visibility and slick roads, causes thousands of preventable crashes each year.”

Preparing the vehicle is the first step in improving a driver’s chances of safe winter driving. There are many ways to winterize a car.

  • Check the systems. Make brakes, defroster, heater, exhaust system, and lights work properly. Change the blades in the wipers and check the level and condition of the antifreeze.
  • Inspect the tires. Good tread allows the water to escape from under the tires and increases traction. Keep tires at proper pressure. Low pressure allows the tread to squeeze together and reduces traction. Too-high pressure prevents the tread from contacting the road thoroughly.
  • Keep a full gas tank. In winter it may become necessary to change routes, idle for long periods of time, travel slowly, or turn around in a storm. A full gas tank allows drivers to do these maneuvers without worrying about running out of fuel.
  • Keep the windshield and windows clear. Have a snow brush and ice scraper in the vehicle. Clean off the roof of the vehicle and the windows. Use the car’s defroster or a clean cloth to “defog” the inside of the windows.
  • Carry an emergency kit and AAA card. Items to include in the kit are a flashlight, first-aid kit, flares or emergency triangles, window washer fluid, tool kit, blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, paper towels, drinking water, and extra food. Also include abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter, and a small shovel to free the vehicle if it becomes stuck.
  • Include chains. Remember, chains must be installed on the “drive” wheels of the vehicle.
  • Carry an extra car key. Many motorists lock themselves out of their vehicles when installing chains or attending to weather-related problems.

It’s not enough to prepare a vehicle for winter. Brush up on these tips for adapting to driving techniques for winter weather conditions.

  • Adjust speed for the weather. SLOW DOWN. Keep in mind that a vehicle needs at least three times more distance to stop on slick roads.
  • Increase the following distance. To safely stop, a vehicle needs a minimum of four to eight seconds between it and the vehicle in front.
  • Be alert. Learn to “read” road conditions to anticipate a hazard in time to react safely. Bridges, overpasses, and shaded spots are a special danger because ice often forms first in these areas.
  • Steer clear of collisions. Learn to take evasive action by steering around a situation to avoid collisions. Steering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 mph because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In winter weather, sudden braking often leads to skids.
  • Recognize hydroplaning hazards. Even a small amount of water on the road can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. One-twelfth of an inch of water between the tires and the road means each tire has to displace one gallon of water a second. To reduce the chances of hydroplaning slow down, avoid hard braking or sharp turns, drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead, and increase the following distance.
  • React to trouble quickly. If you there is trouble, pull completely off to the side of the road, turn on the hazard lights, light flares or place emergency triangles, signal for help, and stay in the vehicle with the seatbelt on. Call for help on a cell phone. Remember to keep the AAA card handy for these types of emergencies.
  • Know how to drive in the fog. Visibility in fog can deteriorate in a moment. The rapid loss of visibility creates serious driving hazards. The following are specific driving tips for fog.
  • Drive with lights on low beam.
  • Reduce speed.
  • Listen for traffic that cannot be seen. Open windows if necessary.
  • Use wipers and defroster for maximum visibility.
  • Be patient! Don’t switch lanes unnecessarily.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, don’t stop on any freeway or other heavily traveled road.
  • If possible, postpone a trip until the fog has lifted.

About AAA
AAA is one of the top five insurance providers in the state of California with nearly 1 million car insurance (auto insurance) policyholders and insuring approximately 1.7 million cars in California. AAA’s insurance company, the California State Automobile Association Inter Insurance Bureau, began offering auto insurance in 1914. One out of every five cars on Northern California roads is insured by AAA.

Homeowners insurance was added in 1974 and has become California's fourth-largest insurer of residential property. In addition to auto insurance and home insurance, AAA offers motorcycle insurance, watercraft insurance, motorhome insurance, renters insurance, rental property insurance, flood insurance, umbrella insurance, travel insurance and life insurance to customers in approximately 20 states, including Nevada and Utah.


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Jerry Locsin
AAA - Montclair
(510) 565-7261
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