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Prepare now for winter driving
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Generally speaking, the wettest months of the year are November through March. They are also the coolest and have the fewest daylight hours. So far, November rainfall is far below average, standing at only .02 inches, while the norm is 1.48 inches. The dry month notwithstanding, the cold/wet season brings increased roadway and traffic hazards. Now is the time to prepare for winter driving conditions.

Start with your car. Windshield wipers deteriorate quickly so it is good idea to replace them, regardless of how they look or seem to be working. Windshields accumulate oils and hidden grime that can cause glare and interfere with windshield wiper effectiveness. Most auto parts stores sell special windshield cleaning fluid designed to remove oils that normal cleaners will not, and cleaning the glass in this fashion will make a huge difference at night and during wet driving conditions.

Make sure your windshield defroster functions properly and that all window fog and ice is gone before driving. Pencils, pens, accumulated dust and dirt may block the window defrosting system, so inspect those vents and vacuum as necessary. Plan ahead and allow yourself a few extra minutes, especially in the morning, to deal with icy and fogged windows on your vehicles.

When it rains, the roadways become particularly slick from the accumulated oils and rubber from tires (as they wear). Slick roadways require more stopping distance, so increase your following distance. Drive more slowly to adjust for the added hazards of wet roadways. Tire pressure and tread depth also need to be checked regularly. Tires with inadequate tread hydroplane more easily and are subject to blowouts from hazards and wear. Few people check their spare tires very often, so check now to see if the tire is inflated and ready to go, and avoid the problem of learning your spare is flat when you really need it. Also, be equipped with a jack, lug nut wrench and other tools for changing a tire.

Properly functioning headlights, turn signals and taillights are always a must, but during the winter they become that much more important. In the Valley, we often experience foggy conditions where low beams will be necessary and should be kept in good working order as well.

Most all emergency service vehicles have their fuel tanks kept at a minimum of ½ full, and I advise all motorists to do the same with their personal vehicles if possible. Fuel gauges can sometimes be faulty, so keeping enough fuel in the tank can prevent an unpleasant surprise. Empty space in a fuel tank also tends to increase the chances of water accumulating in your vehicle's fuel system. This occurs when water vapor condenses in the air space in the tank. For that reason alone, especially during winter, I try to keep my fuel tank as full as possible. Also, in case you become stuck on the side of the road, you may need plenty of fuel to keep your vehicle running to keep you warm through the emergency.

Driving in snow or icy conditions require the use of tire chains. Be sure to have tire chains that have been checked for fit and that you know how to install them. Black ice on the roadway is virtually invisible to drivers and can make for scary and dangerous situations. It pays to be extra cautious and increase your distance from others when driving in these conditions.

It is also wise to keep emergency supplies in the car, such as warm clothing, blankets, snow boots, some food, water, flashlights and road flares.

People who are prevention-minded and prepared seem to be less likely to encounter problems, whether they are traveling or otherwise. I wish you all safe travels this winter.