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Must travel in a winter storm? Here are tips to keep you safe on the road

Must travel in a winter storm? Here are tips to keep you safe on the road
Must travel in a winter storm? Here are tips to keep you safe on the road 06:55

BALTIMORE - AAA advises drivers to stay off the roads, if they can, during wintry weather.

But, if you must travel to an essential destination, AAA spokesperson Ragina Ali says to make sure your car is prepared.

Winter storms and snow can cause unwanted emergencies, like power outages, car issues or unsafe travel conditions.

"First off, if you don't have to go out, stay put," Ali said. "That's the first and most important thing. But, you know we've had a pretty mild winter the last couple of years, so we want to remind drivers not only how to drive in the sort of winter weather, but to make sure that their car is properly prepared."

[Maryland Weather: Alert Day for Saturday for wintry weather]

Last year, Ali says, AAA responded to more than 140,000 calls in Maryland alone during the winter months.

The Baltimore area is anticipating a wintry mix of snow and rain on Saturday.

Rain and snow will overspread the region by mid to late morning from the south. Expect mainly rain east of I-95. 

Along I-95, it will start as snow or a rain/snow mix then change to all rain. It appears that the changeover will occur a bit faster for areas near I-95. Areas closer to the Pennsylvania border and getting into Western Maryland will stay all snow for a longer period into Saturday evening, leading to the potential for better snow accumulations. 

[How much snow will Maryland see this weekend?]

Around an inch of snow can be expected for Baltimore City, with an inch or two for Central and Northern Baltimore County.  

Snow will continue the longest from northern Carroll into Frederick Co. and through western Maryland where significant snow accumulations may occur, especially near I-81.   

[When is the best time stock up on groceries before a winter storm?]

Snow and rain can cause icy and slick travel conditions, along with frigid temperatures, so you don't want to be stranded.

Ali said it is important to make sure your car is ready for the elements, which includes checking your battery's lifespan, check the pressure on your tires, that you have plenty of tread and that your windshield wipers are in good shape.

"A lot of us don't check them, and unfortunately, when we get sort of that ice on our windshields, we kind of use them almost as a snow scraper," Ali said. "So you want to make sure that your blades are in good shape. You also want to make sure that you have fluids, so your oil your transmission fluid, those things. But you also want to make sure that you have windshield wiper fluid, particularly some that have a mixture that won't freeze."

It's also vital to have an emergency road kit on hand.

Ali says those items include an ice scraper, kitty litter, sand or salt for your tires if you are stuck in snow, shovel, jumper cables, a blanket and warm clothes, such as extra hats and gloves.

You also should have water, snacks and non-perishable items in case of emergencies.

"This weekend, we are not anticipating a really intense storm, but one may come, and a lot of us forget, because we had a mild winter last year, the driving tips, if we head out, and all of a sudden there is ice, which is the worst," Ali said. "The important thing is that I think a lot of people become overly confident if they have an SUV, and the reality is that ice is ice. So whether you have an SUV or a smaller car, it can be slick if there's ice on the roadway."

Ali said more than half of the crashes that occur during the winter months are attributed to poor road conditions or weather-related factors. 

"So we want to be mindful that if you must go out give yourselves ample following distance and to certainly reduce your speed," Ali said. "You can't drive on snow and ice like you just drive on dry pavement, so be mindful of that again increasing your following distance for the cars in front of you. Make sure that you have your headlights on for visibility so that you can be seen, and so that you can see. "

AAA has more tips here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some suggestions

If you MUST drive, create an emergency car kit:

  • Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
  • Items to stay warm such as extra hats, coats, mittens, and blankets
  • Windshield scraper
  • Shovel
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water and snack food
  • First aid kit with any necessary medications and a pocket knife
  • Tow chains or rope
  • Tire chains
  • Canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
  • Cat litter or sand to help tires get traction, or road salt to melt ice
  • Booster cables with fully charged battery or jumper cables
  • Hazard or other reflectors
  • Bright colored flag or help signs, emergency distress flag, and/or emergency flares
  • Road maps
  • Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water

Get your car ready for winter travel:

  • Have the radiator system serviced or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze as needed.
  • Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure the tires on your car have adequate tread and air pressure. Replace any worn tires and fill low tires with air to the proper pressure recommended for your car (typically between 30-35 psi).
  • Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Keep your car in good working order. Be sure to check the following: heater, defroster, brakes, brake fluid, ignition, emergency flashers, exhaust, oil, and battery.

However, if you don't need to travel, stay off the roads.

But, if you need to go to work or an essential destination, follow these tips from the CDC:

  • Avoid non-essential travel when the National Weather Service has issued advisories.
  • If you must travel, inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival.

Follow these tips if you get stranded:

  • Make your vehicle visible to rescuers. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna, raise the hood (if it is not snowing), and turn on the inside overhead lights (when your engine is running).
  • Keep your body warm. Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers. Huddle with other people if you can.
  • Stay awake and stay moving. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve circulation and stay warmer.
  • Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing).
  • Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
  • Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
  • Do not eat snow because it will lower your body temperature.
  • Huddle with other people for warmth.
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