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February 16, 2013

Experts offer travel safety tips

(Continued)

When “that” happens, White said the first thing to do is not to panic. 

“If you happen to go into a skid, get your foot off the gas pedal until you are sure that you’re headed in a fairly straight line,” he said. “Turn your steering wheel in the direction you want to go.” 

Motorists wanting to get some hands-on practice of their own can sign up for the New York State Traffic Survival Workshop, which is presented by the National Traffic Safety Institute. The one-day course covers defensive driving techniques designed to reduce damages and casualties caused by car accidents for a cost of $30. 

John Iavino, an instructor with the program in Delaware County, said one key aspect of the class can be boiled down to a simple phrase. 

“We do stress one thing: Slow down,” Iavino said. “Slow down because of conditions on the ground in the winter.”

Besides accidents, winter driving presents other hazards. 

Vigna warned of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning in winter. The odorless, poisonous gas can cause brain damage or death in those who breathe it too long, as happened in the Boston area during Winter Storm Nemo. 

“Symptoms may include headache, dizziness and sleepiness,” Vigna said. “Older, rusty cars and a poorly maintained exhaust system increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. A continuous supply of fresh air flowing into the vehicle is a good defense.”

Vigna offered tips on offense, as well. 

“Prepare your vehicle prior to the winter driving season,” says Vigna. “Make sure it is in proper working order mechanically.” 

This may include, but not be limited to, checking your antifreeze, windshield wipers and defroster. A good set of properly inflated snow tires will help to maintain traction.

“Prior to traveling, be sure to clean all windows and lights to maximize visibility,” Vigna continued. “Carry an extra container of windshield washer fluid. Listen to the weather report. Always plan on extra time to get to your destination. It may be necessary to postpone traveling until driving conditions are safe. Use the low-beam headlights to see and be seen. High beams may limit visibility since they reflect back from falling snow.

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