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Safe Winter Driving

Winter driving has unique challenges. From Lynnfield to Saugus to Salem and all North Shore Towns in between, winter weather causes roads like Route 1, Route 93 and Route 128 to become icy and slick. Paying attention to car safety before hitting the road can help make sure you have a safe and comfortable trip regardless of the wintery weather.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThere are several areas of your car you may want to pay extra attention to.  According to SafeMotorist.com one of the first things a driver should check are the headlights and taillights.  Visibility due to winter conditions can be decreased – from the weather or from road spray or even how early it gets dark this time of year. Properly working lights will help other cars see you even when visibility is low.

You also need to have good tires on your car for the winter months.  Tires are designed to grip the road and properly inflated tires with excellent tread may be one of your best defenses against slippery roads.  You want to make sure your tires are not bald, worn or improperly inflated.  Auto experts suggest rotating tires twice a year to help prolong their life, and also having tires aligned once a year.  Among the most important thing you should pay attention to is tire pressure. The colder it is the lower your tire pressure will drop. While checking your tire pressure it is also a good time to look for signs of uneven wear, embedded objects or bubbles in the sidewall of your tire. SafeMotorist.com also reminds drivers not to neglect the spare tire.  You should make sure the spare tire is properly inflated in case of an emergency.

How do you know when your tires are bald? The US Department of Transportation recommends replacing tires when they reach 2/32.” A penny test is one of the most well-known ways to test tire tread depth.  For the penny test you need to place a penny between the tread ribs on your tire.  A rib is the raised portion of tread on your tire.  When you place the penny in the tread you want to make sure Lincoln’s head points down into the tread.  If Lincoln’s head disappears behind the ribs on your tire then it is above 2/32” and not overly worn; but if you cannot see Lincoln’s head it is definitely time to replace your tires. The penny test should be conducted on all four tires and in between different tread ribs. Tires can wear unevenly.

Checking the brakes on your car is always important but even more so in winter. ‘“When it comes to vehicle safety, the brake system is at the top of the list, so have your brakes checked by an auto service professional at least once a year,’ said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. ‘Knowing the key warning signs that your brakes may need maintenance will go a long way toward keeping you and others safe on the road.”’

Here’s an example: On January 9, 2009 several Boston firefighters learned the importance of having an experienced mechanic routinely inspect the brakes on their fire engine trucks.  On January 9th Ladder 26 struck a high-rise killing one person and injuring several others.  Survivors of the crash claimed that the driver of the fire truck pumped the brakes in an effort to stop the fire truck, however the brakes never engaged.  The auto shop that had recently inspected and completed repairs on the fire truck claimed that they do not perform routine brake services on Boston fire trucks.  This incident shows how important it is to have your brakes inspected regularly.  Had the fire trucks brakes been routinely checked, the situation would likely have had a much better outcome.

The Car Care Council also offers other helpful signs to watch for.  If a driver notices any of the below seven signs they should get their brakes inspected as soon as possible.

  • Noise: screeching, grinding or clicking noises when applying the brakes.
  • Pulling: vehicle pulls to one side while braking.
  • Low Pedal: brake pedal nearly touches the floor before engaging.
  • Hard Pedal: must apply extreme pressure to the pedal before brakes engage.
  • Grabbing: brakes grab at the slightest touch to the pedal.
  • Vibration: brake pedal vibrates or pulses, even under normal braking conditions.
  • Light: brake light is illuminated on your vehicle’s dashboard.

These are just some of the things to look for to help keep you safe in your car. Now, let’s go skiing!