If you must be on the road, use the four P’s of safe winter driving. Road crews work hard to ensure roads are in the best possible condition; however, you must change your driving behavior during the winter months. It will help make your trip safer and help you deal with an emergency if necessary:
Prepare your vehicle
- Check tire tread - Insert a Lincoln penny into the tread of each tire. If you can see the entire top of his head, your tread is less than one-sixteenth of an inch deep and should be replaced.
- Check tire air pressure - Each tire should be filled to the suggested PSI (pounds per square inch) of air, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a label inside the driver’s door.
- Check when tires are “cold” - meaning they haven’t been driven on for at least three hours.
- Check fluid levels and heat - Put no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir and check your antifreeze, exhaust system, and defrosters.
- Check gas tank - Always keep your tank two-thirds full.
- Assemble a disaster supply kit - Include a first-aid kit, shovel, ice scraper, flashlight and batteries, sand or cat litter, blankets, candles and matches, water, snacks and cell phone.
- Clean your vehicle - Remove snow, ice, or frost from all headlights, taillights, mirrors and windows before you start to drive.
Plan your travel
Check weather and road conditions. Call 511 in Kentucky or 1-866-737-3767
if calling from out-of-state. Information can also be found at http://511.ky.gov.
Conditions are described in the following manner:
- Wet Pavement - The roadway is wet. Ice could form as temperatures drop.
- Partly Covered - The roadway is partly covered with snow, ice, or slush. Road markings may be obscured.
- Mostly Covered - The roadway is mostly covered with snow, ice, or slush. Road markings may be difficult to because of packed snow and rutting conditions.
- Completely Covered - The roadway is completely covered with snow, ice, or slush and markings are obscured.
- Impassable - Roadway conditions are not suitable for travel unless required by an emergency
- Drive carefully - Allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Do not use cruise control.
- Remember that bridges and exit and entrance ramps can be icy when other areas are not.
- Leave a “space cushion” - Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you because stopping in snow may require up to four times your normal stopping distance.
- Be seen - Dull, cloudy days will cut down on visibility so drive using low-beam headlights.
- Steer into the skid - Stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go.
- Practice driving - During daylight, rehearse maneuvers slowly on ice or snow in an empty lot.
Protect yourself in an emergency
Kentucky has a Quick Clearance Law (KRS 189.580) meaning:
If you are involved in a crash
- If no one is visibly injured, move your vehicle to the shoulder or off the interstate or parkway.
- Call police.
- Exchange information.
If you have a disabled vehicle
- Move vehicle off the roadway if possible and stay in the vehicle.
- Turn on emergency flashers.
- Tie something white or bright to your antenna or window, or raise hood, to request aid.
- If unable to move the vehicle from the roadway, stand away from the vehicle. Keep arms and legs moving to keep warm.
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning if stuck in snow, keep the exhaust pipe clear. Run
your vehicle with the windows partially down and use the heater for 10 minutes per hour.
Throughout the snow season, which runs from November to March, highway response teams across Kentucky serve weekly on-call rotations. The teams monitor weather reports when snow is in the forecast and determine when to activate the state’s arsenal of snow-fighting equipment, including more than 1,000 snow plows.
Motorists are reminded to give a wide berth to plows, salt trucks and other snow-clearing heavy equipment. To be effective in dispersing de-icing material, trucks tend to travel at a slower speed. Also, snow plows may create a snow cloud which can cause a white out or zero visibility condition, so keep a safe distance away from the trucks.