Whenever there’s a chance of stormy weather, the Oregon Department of Transportation encourages motorists to prepare their vehicles in advance and drive with extra caution.
Before traveling to areas that may have hazardous conditions, make sure your vehicle is ready:
• Ensure the heater and defroster are working properly.
• Test all lights. Carry spare light bulbs.
• Use antifreeze that’s good to -25 degrees; check and fill washer and other fluids and make sure hoses aren’t loose or brittle.
• Keep wipers clean and in good condition; fill the windshield washer tank.
• Make certain your battery is fully charged (also check battery age and make sure cables are not loose or corroded).
• Ensure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated for best traction, including your spare.
• Carry chains or use traction tires in winter.
• Keep an automotive safety kit in your vehicle.
If you are driving in areas that have ice or snow on the road, adjust your driving to fit conditions and remember these winter driving tips:
• Turn off your cruise control.
• If you lose traction and your vehicle feels like it’s floating, gradually slow down. Don’t slam on the brakes.
• Use caution when driving on bridges or concrete highways. These surfaces are the first to freeze and become slippery when the temperature drops.
• Slow down in advance of shaded areas, especially on curves. Shaded areas are cooler and may have ice that is difficult to see.
• Don’t pass snowplows or sanders, and don’t follow them too closely; they will pull over!
• Be prepared for slow traffic after a storm passes. It may take several hours to clear long lines of trucks waiting to cross a pass after a storm moves through the area. Also, it may take time to remove cars abandoned on the side of the road.
• Know your route. Some roads, like state highways, are regularly maintained. Other roads, such as forest service roads, are maintained less frequently.
• Be prepared to encounter more traffic if you are traveling the day before, the day of or the day after a holiday.
• Don’t drive fatigued. If you’re feeling tired, find a place where you can safely pull off the road and rest.
Make sure your vehicle is stocked with the following: working flashlight (rechargeable or with extra batteries), cell phone and charger, extra food and water, flares, jack, lug wrench, shovel, road maps, blanket/sleeping bag(s), extra warm clothes, boots, hat and gloves, first aid kit (including prescription medications), pocketknife, matches or lighter, battery jumper cables, ice scraper and snow brush, paper towels, extra washer fluid, chains or traction tires and a full fuel tank.
Before leaving, tell a family member or friend of your planned route and when you anticipate arriving. Keep them updated on any major route or arrival changes.
Shelley Snow is a safety public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation.