Last updated: January 06. 2014 9:38PM - 404 Views
Lucas Vance Staff Writer

South Carolina motorists prepare for winter weather this week.
South Carolina motorists prepare for winter weather this week.
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Lucas Vance

Staff Writer

WINNSBORO — With winter weather in full swing, it is important to brush up on your winter driving tips.

Do not assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your vehicle is equipped with Electronic-Stability Control (ESC), make sure it’s turned on. ESC will assist you in maintaining control of your vehicle if it loses traction. Keep your lights and windshield clean and turn on your lights to make you visible to other motorists.

If you do not have to travel, S.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Billy Elder recommended staying off the roads.

“You would be surprised at the number of crashes where people are just out joyriding and enjoying watching the snow fall,” he said.

Give yourself extra time to reach your destination safely and before leaving home, find out about driving conditions. Monitor your local news stations or visit state agency websites such as www.scdps.org, www.scdot.org and www.scemd.org.

Be aware that road conditions are constantly changed and be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and less-traveled roadways that tend to freeze first.

Avoid using cruise control and remember that driving in winter conditions call for a different kind of driving than normal weather including slower speed, slower acceleration, slower steering and slower braking.

If there is precipitation, Elder encouraged people NOT to travel during freezing temperatures. He also encouraged motorists to make sure their vehicle is weather-ready, by ensuring there is plenty of fuel in the gas tank, placing a cold weather emergency kit in the car (blankets, flashlights, water and food) and always travel with a fully charged cell phone in case of emergencies to call for help if their vehicle becomes stranded during travel.

If you have to drive go slow, wear your seat belt and make sure you maintain an appropriate following distance.

Elder emphasized driving with caution if you are on the roadways during a snow or ice storm. Drive below the speed limit in winter weather conditions.

“The speed limits are set for perfect conditions on dry roads, sunny day and light traffic,” he noted. “When you have snow or ice on the road that is an extreme condition and drivers should not attempt to do anywhere near the speed limit.”

With any crash the main culprit of an accident is driver error, the majority of crashes in South Carolina are single-vehicle accidents.

“That means it is usually something the driver has failed to do to cause the accident,” Elder said. “Either preparation wise or a driver error. Very rarely do you have an accident caused by mechanical failure, that’s why 90-percent of accidents are single-vehicle crashes.”

If conditions warrant it, additional troopers will be dispatched onto the roadways and interstates to assist drivers when winter weather comes in.

“It all depends on how extreme the weather is,” Elder noted. “We will be monitoring at the very least to see if our call load goes up. If the troopers that are on duty can’t handle it then we will call for additional troopers.”

When making the decision to drive or not, tune into general media reports and weather conditions to see what type of information the highway patrol is passing along.

If you’re hearing of multiple problems in your general vicinity Elder recommended not traveling. You can also follow the S.C. Highway Patrol on Facebook and Twitter.

To see up to the minute reports in your area visit www.scdps.gov/schp/SCHPWebCad. The website will allow you to see reports from around the state in real-time.

Prepping a vehicle before travel

Elder suggested not driving if your windshield is frozen over and emphasized clearing the windshield of all ice before driving on the roads.

“A lot of people will try to drive when they have carved out the ice in just one section and that is dangerous because the remaining ice is an obstruction to the driver’s view,” he said.

Elder also advised that motorists can be charged and ticketed if caught driving with a windshield full of ice.

To safely melt the ice on a windshield, Elder suggested turning on the heater and defrost 10-15 minutes before accessing the roadways. He also recommended investing in a de-icer chemical.

“People should go ahead and buy those supplies now,” he said. “People may even want to think about placing a cover over their windshield throughout the night to keep the windshield from getting in that condition.”

Follow these instructions if your vehicle does start to skid:

• Take your foot off the accelerator

• Counter steer by steering into the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go

• If you have standard brakes, pump them gently

• If you have anti-lock brakes, apply a steady pressure

If you get stuck:

• Do not spin your wheels, it will only dig you deeper

• Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow or ice out of the way

• Use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out

• Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of your car

• Pour sand, cat litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels to help get traction

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