HARTFORD, CT (February 12, 2021) – The crash this week in Texas is a tragic reminder of the risks associated with winter weather driving. With four storms in the forecast, AAA is urging Connecticut motorists to make sure their tires are in optimal condition and that they address basic vehicle maintenance, which many have overlooked during the pandemic.
Six people were killed and many more injured in the 133-car pileup in Fort Worth when freezing rain turned to ice on a major roadway.
“With every storm, drivers across Connecticut 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,” says Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for AAA in Greater Hartford. “Basic vehicle maintenance is also critical. Properly inflated tires with a healthy tread could be lifesaving.”
Any AAA Approved Auto Repair or the AAA Car Care in Southington will perform a bumper to bumper vehicle check, including tires and battery, for free. Or, AAA members can call at any time for a battery and tire check at their home or place of business, at no additional charge.
AAA roadside assistance calls for dead batteries in particular have been higher than usual because more vehicles are sitting idle for days or weeks at a time because of COVID-19.
AAA is also reminding drivers to have a fully charged cellphone and a full tank of gas as winter months increase the risk of being stuck in traffic for a prolonged period of time.
“The Texas scene which shut down the roadway for hours demonstrates that even those not directly involved in a crash may be stuck in traffic, idling for hours,” Parmenter says.
AAA offers the following tips for winter driving and car care:
Winter Driving Do’s
- Prepare your vehicle for cold weather. Check battery, ignition system, lights, brakes, tires, the exhaust system and windshield wipers.
- Fill the tank. Fill your gas tank before any winter weather event begins. You never want to be low on gas if you get stuck on the road for hours.
- Slow down. When the roads are icy allow extra time to reach your destination. Rushing creates risks.
- Pack an emergency kit. Ice scraper, shovels, kitty litter, towels, blankets, coats, mittens, a cell phone, water and extra food in case road conditions strand you in your vehicle.
- 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 and to insist that children who may be traveling with you do the same.
- Use low gear to get out of a tough spot. You need steady pulling and moderate power when traction is poor. The best remedy when wheels are stuck is to put the car in low gear and apply power slowly. Keep the wheels pointed straight ahead so the vehicle can move in a straight line. If you can’t go forward, try backing out, steering in the vehicle’s tracks.
Winter Driving Don’ts
- 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. On a four-lane highway, stay in the lane that has been cleared most recently. Changing lanes over built-up snow between lanes may cause you to loose control of the vehicle.
- Never use cruise control. When driving on any slippery wet, icy surface cruise control prevents you from having total control over your vehicle.
- Prevent from braking with an ABS. An anti-lock brake system allows the wheels to lock momentarily. Do not pump the pedal or remove your foot from the brake when you feel the brake pedal vibrate and pulse against your foot.
- Do not drive in four-wheel-drive. It will get you going faster and easier but it does not provide an advantage in stopping.
- Do not panic. If your vehicle skids out of control steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go. To regain control of your vehicle, stay calm.
AAA urges motorists to pack a vehicle emergency kit and leave it in their cars at all times.
“No one ever plans to get stuck,” says Parmenter. “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)
- car charger and/or external battery for your phone