With Thanksgiving only two weeks away, it is safe to say the holiday season is upon us. Many people have plans for a long-distance trip to be with friends and family, to decorate homes and to prepare holiday meals. Unfortunately, this is the same time when most driving mishaps occur.
Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) is offering tips, so that you can avoid the holiday driving mishaps and have a fun and safe holiday celebration.
"Pre-plan your trip and make sure you have an alternate route, especially if there is going to be a lot of traffic on the roadways for the holidays," said Ronald Kunz, NSAB emergency manager. "Give yourself plenty of time to go don't try to race in there. I think a lot of our mishaps occur when people are going faster because they're not use to curves, intersections, steep grades or blind spots. If it's unfamiliar roadway, bring your speed down.
"Make sure that you let your friends and families know when they can expect you. That's something safe to let them know ahead of time, so if you're running late they can start anticipating that you may be having problems."
Part of pre-planning your trip is making sure your car can survive the winter weather before making that trek.
"It's important to make sure that the car has an oil change, and check the tires for proper inflation, as well as tread wear," said Kunz. "Make sure the windshield wipers work properly and the blades are good. Make sure the headlights are bright. Sometimes plastic coverings over the headlights get dulled out, so you either need to replace them or clean them. Make sure all the lights on the vehicle work properly such as break lights, tail lights and license plate lights. Check and make sure the seatbelts are working properly. It's not only the law, but it also prevents ejection from a vehicle in a crash.”
The cold weather brings with it hazardous driving conditions such as iced or snowy roads. Having the right gear on hand in your vehicle will allow you to circumvent some of the frustration caused by winter weather.
"Having an emergency kit in the car is very important because you never know when an unexpected accident or vehicle stalls or traffic due to inclement weather can stop you," said Jarrod Greene, NSAB emergency management specialist. "Some of the items that should be in your emergency kit include a flashlight with batteries, and some kind of lighting device to let people know that you are there in case its dark, especially with more hours of darkness in the winter than in the summer. Non-perishable snacks. I would recommend bringing your camping shovel in case you get stuck in snow and then you would be able to dig yourself out. Other things would be an extra set of gloves and warm weather clothing just in case you forget your regular stuff."
Winter weather affects the vehicle by exposing it to uncommon hardships, from the exterior to the interior. Checking your fluid levels and making sure your vehicle is clean of debris will extend its longevity.
"Cold weather can affect your tires and cause them to deflate over a period of time through a normal process called permeation," said Greene. "Tires without enough air in them will not get as good of traction and poorer gas mileage. So, it is important to check the pressure in your tires regularly throughout the winter months."
For more information regarding safe driving practices during the winter months, contact the Naval Safety Center at www.safetycenter.navy.mil.