Staying Safe On The Roads During Snow Storms

NORTH CAROLINA- As the temperatures drop and winter weather moves across our state, AAA of the Carolinas has some safety tips to help keep you safe if you have to travel over the next several days.

Angela Vogel Daley of AAA says to avoid unnecessary travel if possible during dangerous weather events.

“If you anticipate snowy or icy conditions in your area, our best recommendation is to stay off the road,” Daley says. “Delay your travels and travel at a time when it is going to be much safer.”

Daley recommends keeping a greater distance between your car and the car in front of you. On dry pavement at 20 mph, it takes about 20 feet to stop, whereas on ice-covered roads at 20 mph, it takes 145 feet to stop.

If you have to put on the brakes, it is a good idea to do so gradually with steady pressure on the brakes. If you begin to skid, steer in the direction you want to go. If you have anti-lock brakes, keep the brake firmly engaged; if you don’t have anti-lock brakes, gently depress the brake pedal.

Don’t slam on your brakes because it can cause you to lose control. If the brakes lock, release the brakes and gently brake again while keeping your heel on the floor.

Avoid using cruise control in rainy, slick or snowy conditions.

“You may need to take your foot off the pedal quickly. This cannot be easily accomplished when your cruise control is engaged. You may cause the car to skid if you are in cruise control.”

To prepare for frigid conditions, Daley says it is also important to check your car battery.

“When temperatures get below freezing, your battery loses about 40 percent of its charge. If your battery is weak to begin with, your car may not start. We will definitely see that when temperatures go below freezing.”

During winter months, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases as people warm up their cars in closed garages. In some counties, Daley explains, it is illegal to warm up a car parked on public streets when the driver is not in the car.

“You should never be warming up your car with a closed garage door. Pull your car outside to warm it up.”

Keeping an emergency kit in your car can also help you be prepared if you become stranded while traveling. Daley says to make sure it includes a car charger, blankets, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, drinking water, a small shovel, a sack of sand or cat litter for traction, a windshield scraper, battery booster cables, emergency reflectors and non-perishable snacks.

Seatbelt Usage Down In North Carolina

CHARLOTTE – Seatbelt usage in North Carolina has statistically been among the best in the nation for a while, but AAA Carolinas Communications Director, Angela Vogel Daley, says the buckle-up rate dipped in 2012.

“In 2012 compared to 2011, we found that seatbelt use rates fell from 89.5 percent in 2011 to 87.5 percent in 2012, which is an alarming trend that it’s going down after going up for so many years,” Daley says.

She says the high rate is in part due to the Click-It-Or-Ticket campaign and the subsequent enforcement of it. North Carolina was the first to launch the campaign 20 years ago.

Statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the use of seat belts reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers in cars by 45 percent and in trucks by 60 percent.

“That’s an average, but obviously when you’re going at higher speeds and you’re in an accident you have a higher chance of being thrown from the vehicle,” Daley says. “You could be killed on impact.”

South Carolina has followed the same trend that North Carolina did increasing its usage rate from 70 percent in 2005 to 91 percent in 2012. Daley says a lot of that has to do with the change in state law.

“That’s for the front and back seats meaning that you can get pulled over for not wearing your seatbelts (without) requiring another violation,” Daley says.

Both states are still above the national average of 86 percent, but that number is also on the rise after jumping two points this past year.

“The increased enforcement, the increased awareness, it’s definitely heading in the right direction,” Daley says.

According to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, in 2011, 43 percent of people who died in a traffic-related incident were not wearing a seatbelt. It also reported that 53 percent of those who died unbelted were ages 16-35.