North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

By Peter Barrett
Safety First 

Preparing for winter road conditions


As we enter the 2013 winter driving season, here are some tips and friendly reminders on how to make sure that we can minimize the driving risks and increase our safety on the roadways.

As of November 1, studded tires are allowed by law and can be installed by you or any local tire dealer. Those studded tires can legally remain on your vehicle until March 31, 2014. Tires created specifically for winter driving are a great start to outfitting the vehicle and making sure it is able to better handle icy mornings and snowfall. However, there are many other things we as drivers can and should do to make our cars ready for this winter season.

I recommend that each year you should take about 5 to 10 minutes at the beginning of November to organize the trunk of your car and make sure that you have winter supplies. Living in Washington State has taught us that the weather is highly unpredictable, and can surprise us with sudden ice and snow at any time in the next few months. The few minutes you take to make your vehicle winter-ready now could literally be a lifesaver later.

So, what types of items are key to have in your car for winter time? Well, there are lots and lots of things that you could put in there, but today I will keep it limited to the very basics. I recommend starting with the vehicle emergency kit. Make sure your emergency kit is well stocked with jumper cables, road flares, reflective triangles, gloves, first aid kit, flashlight, and extra batteries. If you do not have an emergency kit at all, many local retailers sell nice ones for under $30 that include several basic items. You probably will still want to add some things to personalize it, though. Other things you can include are: small tools, prepaid cell phone, camera, hand warmers, and an emergency blanket.

After your emergency kit has been created, you should add some important winter-related items to your vehicle. Carrying extra blankets is a great idea in case you are in the unfortunate spot of being stranded on the side of the road. If your vehicle won’t start, you get stuck on the side of the road, or you find yourself stranded somewhere, your vehicle will get very cold very quickly. Blankets are a must-have item for those situations.

Adding a set of tire chains is also a good idea. Chains can be put on and taken off most vehicles when we get sudden snowfall that accumulates on the roadways, and they are often required when trying to go across the mountain passes. “Quick-Fit” style chains are the easiest to install and are sold at most auto-part stores and tire dealers. One tip though: make sure you learn how to install them when you buy them so you are not trying to learn while you are on the side of the road.

Lastly, put together a small box of water bottles and non-perishable foods like granola bars, crackers, and fruit snacks. Keep in mind that the body needs water more than anything, especially in cold temperatures. The body will use a ton of energy trying to stay warm in the cold winter weather. Having access to some water and food items is critical, even if you’re stuck for only a short time.

A few other things to remember, especially if you plan to do any road trips or travel, is to take some time to have a battery check done and to have your vehicle’s fluids topped off. Also, windshield wipers and wiper fluid are important to give you the best visibility and keep your windshield clean.

Once your vehicle is well-stocked and prepped for winter driving conditions, the last and most important part of safe winter driving starts with the driver. Ice, snow, and overall slick conditions can pose serious challenges and risks. Speed is the number one cause of collisions this time of year. Many people this time of year forget to plan ahead by leaving time to warm up a car, scrape ice, and give extra travel time. If we commit to planning ahead and reducing our speeds this time of year, we can avoid many dangerous situations, keep better control or our vehicles, and save lives.

All of us at 911 Driving School wish you all a very safe winter driving season and a wonderful holiday time with friends and family.


Reader Comments

Nana writes:

A very good article for all of us take note of. Keeping a few supplies in our trunks can be useful throughout the year. We never know when we could come upon a car accident or someone in need. Thank you for this great advice.

Marysville911 writes:

Note: Typo for studded tires should say March 31st as the deadline for studded tires.


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