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As winter weather looms, vehicle safety of upmost importance

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 11:17 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 11:27 a.m. CDT
Paramedics and firefighters respond to a car accident March 2013 north of Creston.

With chilly winds and icy precipitation in the air, it’s time to prepare for Iowa weather.

According to National Weather Service, temperatures in the next 90 days should be above normal, and precipitation should be near normal.

Jo Duckworth, Union County Emergency Management coordinator, said to make plans in case of inclement weather.

In the event of an emergency, such as becoming stranded during inclement weather, be prepared by having an emergency kit in your vehicle. The kit should include food, water, blankets, gloves and jumper cables according to Iowa Department of Transportation.

“If you have a job where you have to be at work, regardless of what the weather is, then you need to make plans,” said Duckworth. “For instance, if it starts to snow, you need to find somewhere to stay, ... and then, you need to have that emergency kit in your car.”

According to www.icyroadsafety.com, Iowa was ranked third after Pennsylvania, Missouri and Nebraska for most fatalities on icy roads, with 20 during the winter of 2009-10.

The website also states there is a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents in winter in the Midwest probably because people drive at higher speeds on rural highways for longer distances. Another possible reason is because icy weather is inconsistent, which leaves motorists unprepared.

According to Iowa Department of Transportation, always maintain a reasonable speed and safe following distance when driving because winter road conditions result in longer stopping times and reduced visibility.

Other tips according to Iowa DOT include: drive under the posted speed limit when road conditions are less than ideal, turn on lights to see and be seen, avoid cruise control and be aware that bridges and overpasses may occasionally freeze before other roadway segments.

Lonnie Long, manager at Heartland Tire & Auto, said prepare your vehicle by getting your tires checked.

“(Have) proper tire air pressure, and make sure you have tread so you have enough traction,” said Long.

Long said to check tire pressure once a week because of fluctuating temperatures.

Also, according to Long, be sure the battery and radiator coolant are serviced to make sure they will stand up to the cold weather.

“Once you have the coolant and battery tested, you should be pretty good for the winter,” Long said.

Other tips Duckworth offered were to have clothes, food and drink in the vehicle in case of inclement weather, and to have a cell phone charged to call for help in the event you are stranded.

“And best of all, plan ahead,” said Duckworth, “so you’re not caught unaware.”

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