Old Man Winter is making his return this week, ushering in cold temperatures and a weekend weather forecast that calls for the first snow of the season. Winter Storm Benji, set to affect most of Maryland early Saturday, is set to deliver a 2,000-mile long path of snow from Texas to New England.
Cold temperatures wreak havoc on car batteries and tires, and snow causes treacherous driving conditions. As a result, AAA Mid-Atlantic is gearing up for winter emergency roadside assistance calls. AAA Mid-Atlantic’s fleet of tow trucks, battery trucks and light service vehicles is ready to rescue AAA members during this weekend and beyond.
“Our roadside assistance fleet is ready to rescue our members who need us this winter,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “When the forecast calls for cold temperatures and snow, it means all hands on deck at AAA so that we can respond to our members as quickly and safely as possible.”
AAA also reminds motorists to take the time to prepare their vehicles for winter weather. Based on calls to AAA Mid-Atlantic Roadside Assistance, the most common problems that arise this time of year are dead batteries or improperly inflated tires, both of which can be aggravated by a sudden cold snap.
“No one ever plans on getting stranded, so AAA encourages anyone with a car battery more than three years old to get it checked before temperatures drop,” noted Averella. “In addition, pack a vehicle emergency kit before you need it and leave in in the car all winter. These supplies could be life-saving.”
AAA Winter Weather Vehicle Preparations
- AAA says the average car battery lasts 3-5 years.
- Even at 32 degrees, a battery is 35 percent weaker.
- At zero degrees, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength, yet the engine needs about twice as much power to start.
- A battery’s life can be drained faster if devices are plugged into cars (cell phone chargers, upgraded audio and GPS devices).
- AAA also recommends checking tire pressure since tires need more air when it is cold.
- Proper cold weather tire pressure can be found in the vehicle manual or on a sticker inside the driver’s door, not on the tire itself.
Winter Vehicle Emergency Kit
Motorists are advised to pack a winter emergency kit now to stow in the trunk of their vehicle to have immediately available should the need arise. More than 40 percent of motorists do not carry an emergency kit in their vehicle, cautions AAA.
- Emergency kit items to include – deicer, shovel, ice scraper, sand or kitty litter (for traction)
- Pack a blanket, extra gloves and hat, heavy coat – if you’re stuck on the road for an extended period of time you’ll need to stay warm, especially if your vehicle is not running
- Pack snacks, beverages, etc. – have them packed by the door to take in the morning (so they don’t freeze in the car overnight)
- Charge your cell phone – have a backup power source for the car in case you’re stuck for a while
- Make sure your windshield wipers and lights (headlights, taillights, turn signals) are working properly – make sure you can see and can be seen
- Keep a FULL tank of gas
Winter Weather Driving
The first snow of the season always comes with a learning curve for drivers who forget how to go in ice and snow.
“Drivers need to remember that it takes a different set of skills when traveling on snowy and icy roads,” commented Averella. “If you have to be out and about, like many holiday shoppers will, remember to drive with caution and give road crews plenty of room to do their job safely.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic advises motorists to be cautious when driving in winter conditions and offers the following safety tips:
- Remove all snow from vehicle, including roof, hood, and trunk. While driving, snow can blow off a car onto the windshield of a nearby vehicle, temporary blinding that driver’s vision.
- Slow down. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself ample room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. Accelerate, turn and brake gradually.
- Do not tailgate. Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be a minimum of five to six seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time will provide additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.
- Never use cruise control on slippery roads, as you lose the ability to transfer more weight to the front tire by simply lifting off the accelerator. A driver should always be in full control of their vehicle during poor road conditions.
- Avoid unnecessary lane changes. This increases the chances of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause loss of vehicle traction.
- Minimize the need to brake on ice. If you’re approaching a stop sign, traffic light or other area where ice often forms, brake early on clear pavement to reduce speed. Vehicle control is much more difficult when braking on ice-covered roadways.
Motorists can download AAA’s free brochure How to Go on Ice and Snow for more tips.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit AAA.com.