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Safe Snow Driving

Julie Z. Rosenberg
Sept. 30, 2016

Should you go to work in bad weather? Do you ask your nanny to drive in a storm? Here's how to judge the conditions, and how to prep your cars.

Winter is here and it's bound to bring mornings when you ask yourself "should I really drive in this?" Even more stressful: "Should I ask my nanny to?" Work doesn't slow down for snow, so here is what you need to do to keep everyone safe. Learn how to create a backup care plan for snow days.

If your nanny drives your kids to and from activities, make sure you're both comfortable with her driving in inclement weather conditions. AAA's Justin McNaull, Director of State Relations points out that many people employ nannies from other countries who might not have grown up with snow, so it's important to gauge your nanny's comfort level. If there's hesitation on either side, make alternate arrangements. Similarly, if your sitter is a teenager or young adult, he or she likely has limited experience driving in bad conditions. Again, err on the side of caution.

During extreme weather, AAA advises motorists to heed driving warnings issued by local or state authorities. They also offer this general rule of thumb: Before venturing out into dangerous driving conditions, motorists should ask themselves if they really 'need' to be on the roadways, defining 'need' in life and death terms.

Chances are good that you or your nanny will find yourselves behind the wheel this winter when the driving conditions are less than ideal. Before that first flake even hits the ground, perform a maintenance check, says John Nielsen, automotive expert at AAA.

  1. Make Sure You Have Good Tires
    Here's a simple trick to help you figure out if you need new tires: Place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire with Lincoln's head pointing into the groove. If Lincoln's head is fully visible, the treads are worn and the tires should be replaced.

  2. Check Your Wiper Blades
    They should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. For those expecting heavy snowfall this year, consider installing winter wiper blades, which consist of a rubber boot wrapping the blade frame to reduce ice and snow buildup that can often prevent good contact between the windshield and the wiper.

  3. Beware of Ice
    "While snow might be on everybody's mind, ice is often the bigger issue and can impact the larger swath of the country. It often comes without much warning. If ice starts to stick to your windshield or wipers, it's sticking to the road also," he says.

    Know that bridges and overpasses freeze up first, and you cannot drive on ice, warns Nielsen. "The best thing to do if you find yourself in that situation is drive at a reasonable speed. As you go across the bridge do not accelerate or hit the brakes. Just try to coast across the bridge."

    If you're ever iced out of your car because the locks are frozen, remember this: there are other ports of entry for your car. "It's quite possible the doors on the other side of the car will open and you can start the car and run the heater for a couple of minutes and everything will melt down for you," says AAA's McNaull.

  4. Have the Right Supplies
    This almost goes without saying, but make sure you have a snow brush with a built-in ice scraper in your car. "When you get out there to brush off your windshield, be sure to clean off your headlights and your taillights so that people don't run into you and can see you well," says Nielsen, who adds that it's something most people neglect to do, but shouldn't.

    You never know how long you might be stuck in your car and in what conditions, even when only traveling short distances. Other emergency items you should have on-hand include:

    • A warm jacket
    • An extra jacket or wool blanket for passengers
    • Kitty litter and small shovel. Tip: If your car gets stuck in the snow, "just dig a little hole around the tire and pour some kitty litter," says Nielsen. "Often times that's enough to get you going from a spot you couldn't otherwise get out of."
    • A fully charged cell phone -- don't get in your car without one.
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