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Tips to minimize risks of winter auto accidents

Winter roads can make for white-knuckle experiences for Kentucky drivers. The increased risks of traffic accidents, paired with cold temperatures, mean that preparedness is key to reduce the dangers of even minor incidents.

Kentucky Forward offers a useful guide for drivers who are getting ready to brave snowy roads. It’s always a good idea to start the trip with a full tank of gas to help ensure that the engine can continue to run and provide heat in the event that there is a long wait for assistance after a crash. Even for short trips, drivers and passengers alike should dress warmly and bring along winter gear, such as coats, hats and gloves.

Drivers who are undertaking a longer trip and expect to be in isolated areas without cell service also are advised to pack a survival kit. First-aid supplies, blankets and a shovel should all be included. Sand or cat litter may come in handy to provide traction on slick surfaces. Maps, flashlights and a windshield scraper are useful additions to the survival kit, as well. Eating snow increases the risk of hypothermia, so drivers should consider including some tools, such as matches and a can, to melt snow for drinking water.

If drivers and passengers have to wait for assistance, it is a good idea for all persons in the car to wrap themselves in blankets or spare clothes and to keep moving to maintain good circulation. Running the heater continuously not only drains the gas tank quickly but also increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Having the engine on for approximately 10 minutes during every hour preserves fuel while also ensuring that the car cabin does not become too cold.

Even when the temperatures rise above freezing, drivers should continue to be cautious, particularly if rain is in the forecast. According to USA Today, a review of federal data indicates that rain causes a higher number of traffic accidents than does snow nationwide. Fog and rain both can significantly impair visibility, and rain can make roads dangerously slick when it mixes with residual oil on the surface of the pavement. Furthermore, drivers are less cautious in rain showers than they are in snowstorms.

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