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Tips for safer winter traveling
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The recent rain reminds us of the coming inclement weather, along with fewer hours of daylight. These rains, the fog and shorter days make for more dangerous driving conditions and increased chances for collisions. School being in session is another variable that comes into play, so it is best to prepare as much as possible for these seasonal changes. There are easy, common sense steps you can take now to make traveling on our roadways during the next several months safer for you and your family.

Daylight Saving (yes, there is no "s" at the end of the word saving), when the clock officially moves back one hour, is on Sunday, Nov. 7. Therefore, we will have fewer daylight hours and darkness will set in progressively earlier by a few minutes each day until Dec. 21 - which is the shortest day of the year. Dec. 21 is also the first day of winter, which is sure to bring the rain, fog, storms and colder temperatures.

The first thing motorists should do is consciously acknowledge that driving tends to be more hazardous during the next several months. By being aware and on the alert to increased driving hazards, there will be a natural tendency to drive more carefully and expect the unexpected. It is more difficult to see pedestrians and bicyclists during hours of darkness, and coupled with rain or fog, the danger factor increases dramatically. There tends to be more potholes and debris on our roads during the rainy season, which adds to driving challenges as well.

Prepare your vehicle for the winter now. This means, at minimum, to ensure your windshield wiper blades are in good condition and that the wiper system functions properly. Wiper blades generally do not last more than a year in our area owing to the heat, the many days of sunshine during the year and the ozone in the air. The windshield defroster must work effectively and it is always handy to have a functioning interior heater. Worn tires should be replaced to avoid flat tires, blow outs, and hydroplaning when the roads are wet. Be sure to check headlights for function and proper adjustment. Taillights, turn signals and brake lights should be checked for function as well. Car batteries are more likely to fail during cold spells, so consider replacing them if they are more than several years old.

Here are some additional tips:

• Always wear seat belts.

• Never warm up your car in an enclosed area (and be aware that driveway warm-ups are a sure way to get your car stolen).

• Do not use cruise control when driving on wet, snowy or icy roadway surfaces.

• Make sure that all tires are properly inflated.

If you are planning to travel to areas at or above the snowline, be sure to read more safety and planning tips by looking at the CalTrans, AAA or similar websites for more helpful information.

Have a safe winter!