The National Weather Service is forecasting freezing rain and winter weather conditions for Amarillo and a large section of the Texas panhandle throughout the day on Thursday. AAA Texas reminds drivers that traveling in winter conditions such as ice or snow can be challenging. During winter weather drivers are encouraged to stay tuned to weather forecasts prior to a long-distance and before driving in rural areas. Drivers should delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. Before departing, people should let others know their intended route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
AAA Texas suggests the following tips when drivers encounter winter weather conditions:
Preparing your vehicle for driving in bad weather
- Clear all snow and ice from the vehicle’s windows, roof, hood, trunk lid and any other covered areas. This will reduce risk, because it increases your visibility. Additionally, drivers around you won’t be blinded by snow blowing off your vehicle.
- Use an ice scraper to remove snow and ice from your windshield and all windows, including side and rear windows. This will improve your ability to see other roadway users that may move into your path of travel.
- To optimize visual clarity, clean the outside and inside of your windshield at least once a week. Frequent cleaning is even more important if you smoke.
- Keep your car’s windshield and rear-window defrosters in good working condition.
- Keep your windshield wiper blades fresh. Many drivers change them every six months, especially before driving in bad weather.
On the road
- Make sure your headlights are on. In fact, it is a good idea to turn on your headlights any time you drive, because you will increase your visibility in any conditions.
- Reduce your speed and leave plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the vehicle in front of you.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding.
- Do not use cruise control on any wet, snow-covered or icy roads.
- Be aware of possible icy roads. Be especially careful on bridges and overpasses, which freeze sooner than roads. And even at temperatures above freezing, if conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
- Be careful on infrequently traveled roads, which may not be cleared as often as other roads.
Leaving the roadway
- If you must pull off the road, wait for conditions to improve and pull off the road as far as you can, preferably past the end of a guardrail.
- It is best to pull into a rest area or parking lot, rather than on the road’s shoulder.
Know When to Brake and When to Steer
- Some driving situations require abrupt action to avoid a crash or collision and in winter conditions the decision to steer or brake can have very different outcomes. When traveling more than 25 mph, AAA Texas recommends steering over braking to avoid a collision in winter-like conditions, as less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of vehicle control.
- However, sometimes steering is not an option. Braking on slippery surfaces requires you to look further ahead and increase following and stopping distances. Plan stopping distances as early as possible and always look 20-30 seconds ahead of your vehicle to ensure you have time and space to stop safely.
Stay in Control Through a Skid
- Even careful and experienced drivers can skid on slippery surfaces. When a vehicle begins to skid, it’s important not to panic and follow these basic steps:
- Continue to look and steer in the direction you want the car to go.
- Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
Additional Winter Driving Safety Tips from AAA Texas
- Use your seatbelt every time you get in the vehicle.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
- Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
Additional information on driving in winter conditions can be found in the online AAA brochure How to Go on Ice and Snow.
AAA Texas members needing assistance can request roadside rescue at 1-800-222-4357 or 1-800-AAA-HELP. As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 60 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.