Stay safe on winter roads

Pack a few extra items in case you run into problems

Pack a few extra items in case you run into problems

December 18, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

OK, we know it's been unseasonably warm, but don't be fooled. Before long, area drivers will again face snow and ice. And potential danger.

Right next to the flashlight, jumper cables and blankets - must-have items for wintertime driving - should be nonperishable snacks, games and a bag of kitty litter, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

"You know when your wheels get stuck in the snow and they kind of spin around? That's why I carry a big bag of cat litter in my trunk," said Chuck Gischlar, a spokesman for the SHA. Sprinkling a bit of litter (or sand or gravel) behind the back wheels helps with traction.

The SHA distributes a guide for driving in wintery conditions. It lists items drivers should keep in their cars in case of an emergency. A PDF version is available at the SHA Web site, The site also has video, condition reports and phone numbers for road officials.


If you must drive

In the event of a winter storm, the best advice is to avoid driving altogether.

"Give the snowplows a chance to clear the roads," Gischlar said.

But if driving is unavoidable, use tried-and-true tactics such as wearing safety belts and taking it easy on the brakes if you hit a slippery patch on the road.

As a caution against being stranded, Gischlar recommends that drivers keep a charged cell phone in the car and notify the people they plan to visit, letting them know a departure time and the estimated time of arrival.

Passing or driving directly behind snowplows on the highway also should be avoided.

"Staying at least two car lengths behind (snowplows) is a good measure," Gischlar said. "You don't want to be too close behind. The trucks are shooting out rock salt and abrasives."

Gischlar offered a few shoveling tips for those clearing their own paths. When standing in a driveway and facing the street, shovel to the right.

Plows push the show from left to right, "so if you shovel to the left everything you just removed will be pushed right back in your driveway," Gischlar said.

Winter driving survival kit

The Maryland State Highway Administration says keeping the following items in your car might help you during an emergency:

· Flashlight and extra batteries

· Charged cell phone and batteries

· Matches and candles

· Warm clothing

· Blanket

· Bottled water

· Nonperishable food and snacks

· A small bag of sand, cat litter or gravel

· Jumper cables

· Shovel

· Basic tool kit

· Flares, neon distress signs

· Tow chain or strap

· Games and toys if you have children

Should you go out?

For driving conditions during winter storms, citizens can reach the Maryland State Highway Administration by calling 800-327-3125 or going online, (or

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