RICHMOND, VA (Friday, February 12, 2021) – Overnight precipitation and early morning precipitation in parts of Virginia is expected to create dangerous driving conditions on the roads tomorrow. AAA warns drivers to stay off the icy roads until VDOT has had time to clear them. Additionally, AAA urges drivers to make sure their cars are ready for whatever winter weather comes their way, especially in light of the 133-car pileup in Fort Worth, Texas this week when freezing rain turned into ice on a major roadway. Six people were killed and traffic was stopped for hours.
“While some vehicles are better equipped to traverse snowy roadways, no vehicle or set of tires can prevent sliding on ice,” said Morgan Dean, A Senior Specialist in Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Ice is slippery no matter how good your tires are and even with four-wheel-drive.”
The crash this week in Texas is a tragic reminder of the risks associated with winter weather driving. With several storms in the forecast, AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging Virginia drivers to make sure their tires are in optimal condition and that they address basic vehicle maintenance, which may have been overlooked during the pandemic.
“With every storm, drivers across Virginia can see a mix of conditions on the roads that may change with little warning. Wet pavement can quickly become a sheet of ice. Drivers should adjust their behaviors for the conditions, being especially careful around bridges and overpasses as they freeze first and melt last,” said Dean. “Basic vehicle maintenance is also critical. Properly inflated tires with a healthy tread could be lifesaving.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic provides the following tips for dealing with icy weather:
- Prepare your vehicle for cold weather by checking the battery, lights, brakes, tires, exhaust system and windshield wipers.
- Don’t let frigid temperatures tempt you into starting your car in a closed garage or idling your engine for long periods with the windows closed. Carbon monoxide, present in exhaust fumes, is almost impossible to detect and can be fatal in a confined area.
- Clear windows, mirrors and lights with an ice scraper, brush or spray de-icer. Make certain windshield wipers and defrosters are in good working order and that washer reservoirs are filled with no-freeze windshield washer fluid. Make sure to clear snow and ice from the entire vehicle so snow and ice can’t blow off the roof on the road putting other drivers at danger.
- If you must go out: Leave early, drive gently, slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you
- Look farther ahead than normal and pay particular attention to: bridges, culverts, on and off ramps and elevated highways which freeze first and may remain frozen when roadways are clear.
- Be alert for “Black Ice”
- Shift into a lower gear to reduce speed if needed
- If your car skids, look and steer in the direction you want your car to go.
- Avoid slamming on brakes. Minimize brake use on very slippery, icy roads and hills; if further speed reduction is needed use a gentle and slow brake application.
- Avoid changing lanes, stay in the lane that has been cleared most recently. Changing lanes over built-up snow between lanes may cause you to lose control of the vehicle. If no lanes have been cleared, try driving in the tire tracks of other vehicles.
- Use major routes. After it snows major roads are cleared and treated first. Avoid secondary roads.
- Dress as if you were going to be stranded. It can get very cold in a car on the side of the road waiting for help. Be sure to have extra blankets to insist that children who may be traveling with you do the same.
AAA urges drivers to pack a vehicle emergency kit and leave it in their cars at all times.
“No one ever plans to get stuck,” said Dean. “Motorists on that Fort Worth highway had no idea they would be stuck for hours due to the 133-car pileup this week. It’s always good to have everything you need in case of an emergency, rather than need something and not have it.”
Vehicle Emergency Kit – Pack a Bag
- COVID-19: Masks, gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
- Bag of sand, cat litter, rock salt or traction mats
- Wiper fluid, windshield de-icer
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Emergency flares or reflectors
- Battery booster cables
- Small shovel
- Blankets, extra gloves, hats, scarves and socks
- Hand/foot warmers
- Drinking water and non-perishable snacks (protein bars, granola bars, pretzels, crackers)
- Cell phone and car charger and/or external battery
AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 61 million members nationwide and more than one million members in Virginia. 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 www.AAA.com.