Winter time to ‘drive precious’ and be safe

IT’S AN OLD SOUTHERN colloquialism to tell someone as they’re leaving in their car to “Drive precious.”

That is always a welcome sentiment and one that should be heeded, but never more so than over the coming months.

First of all, we’re heading into winter, when snow, ice and cold present special driving challenges that – unlike those down south who say “drive precious” — we up north here have to be aware of and deal with.

In addition, the next few months will also see a run of holidays that generate extra traffic as people travel to and from celebrations and gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and even the Super Bowl – which, let’s face it, has become something of a national holiday as well.

Along with the special challenges of heavier traffic on highways and roads, holiday celebrations also unfortunately raise the risk of intoxicated drivers on the highways.

Most drivers are conscientious and adjust their driving habits and styles to reflect the winter weather when it returns, but too often – especially with the first snow storm – some drivers seem to forget from year to year how to drive in snow, ice and cold.

Many of the safe winter driving rules are ones that carry over from good weather driving and apply year-round – things like using seat belts; not driving while tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs; don’t drive too fast; and make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and all fluids are at the proper level.

But there are also rules for winter driving that should be just common sense, such as drive slower in adverse conditions; leave more time for your travel; allow more space between vehicles in traffic and more space for braking and stopping; accelerate slowly on snow and ice; do not use cruise control on surfaces that are slippery with rain, snow or ice; and, if the weather is too severe, avoid driving altogether if possible.

Some are specific to winter driving, like knowing what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to apply them – apply steady pressure with antilock brakes and pump non-antilock brakes; steer into a skid; never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area such as a garage; and don’t idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.

Whether your trip is a short one or a long one, keep track of weather forecasts along the route and plan accordingly.

More tips are easily available online from organizations like the AAA or from state or federal transportation departments.

Winter offers plenty of opportunities for fun and games for young and old, but it also presents challenges when driving in the treacherous weather conditions it can throw at us.

The holiday season offers the chance for sharing joy and happiness with families and friends, but it needs not be a time of tragedy.

A little preparation, common sense and driving courtesy can go a long way to help mitigate much of that challenge and keep us all safe and sound to enjoy winter’s wonders and joyous celebrations – and coming back for more in the future.

Just remember — “Drive precious.”

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