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Nov. 2, 2000 For more information contact:
Dennis Burkheimer
515-239-1355


DOT OFFERS WINTER DRIVING TIPS

AMES, IOWA - Don't be caught off guard by an early winter storm this year. Being prepared for winter driving conditions can save you more than a dented fender; it can save your life.

In addition to the basic safe driving habits motorists should practice all year long - buckling up, driving alert and sober, and driving at a safe and legal speed - there are special precautions that need to be followed during the winter months. The Iowa Department of Transportation recommends the following.

MAKE SURE YOUR VEHICLE IS READY FOR THE SEASON.

To minimize the possibility of a breakdown, winterize your vehicle and get it tuned up. Check, or have a mechanic check, your wipers, hoses, battery, alternator, belts, tires, brakes, exhaust system, lights and fluid levels. Make sure your heater and defroster are in good working order.

USE YOUR WINTER DRIVING SKILLS.

Drive defensively and give yourself a little more time. Adjust your speed to the conditions and increase following distances. Be aware that ramps, bridges and overpasses may occasionally freeze sooner than the highway pavement. Turn on your lights - to see and be seen. Drive well below the posted speed limit, and avoid the use of cruise control when snow, ice, freezing rain or sleet is on the pavement. Be aware of "black ice" (roads that look wet but are actually glazed with ice). Also be aware of patches of pavement where shadows from trees, bridges or buildings may have allowed frost, ice or packed snow to remain unmelted.

Watch for snow removal equipment on the roadway, and stay a safe distance behind the snowplows. Make sure you have clear vision ahead before passing a snowplow, allowing plenty of room and watching for the plow's blades that may extend beyond the width of the truck. Don't try to pass snowplows that are working together in tandem pulling snow from the middle of a divided highway. Remain alert - snowplows generally move slower (15-35 mph) than other traffic, and may be completely obscured at times by blowing snow.

KEEP AN EMERGENCY SURVIVAL KIT AND SUPPLIES IN YOUR VEHICLE.

The "survival kit" should contain: blankets or sleeping bags; high energy, nonperishable food; water; flashlight and extra batteries; matches/lighter and candles; warm gloves; small first-aid kit; hat or stocking cap; insulated footwear; and winter coats.

Other winter travel supplies should include: snow shovel; scraper and snow brush; sand or strips of carpet for traction; flares/reflectors; tool kit; jumper cables; and a good spare tire, lug wrench and jack.

STAY PUT IF YOU BECOME STRANDED.

If you become stranded, stay with your vehicle. Staying in your car will decrease your risk of frostbite or hypothermia, and increase your chances of being rescued. Park on the shoulder where possible and turn your emergency flashers on, hang a brightly colored distress flag on the radio antenna, or raise the hood. If you need to run the engine occasionally to keep warm, be sure to keep snow away from your exhaust pipe and open your vehicle's window a crack to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide buildup.

AVOID TRAVELING IF SEVERE WEATHER IS THREATENING.

During a winter storm ask yourself, "Is this trip really necessary?" Sometimes the best winter driving strategy is to stay home. However, if the trip cannot be delayed, check on weather conditions along your travel route. Listen to weather forecasts on local television and radio stations. Call 800-288-1047, or in Des Moines call 515-288-1047, for a recorded message from the Iowa Department of Public Safety on statewide winter road conditions. (Messages are available Nov. 15 - April 15.) Winter road conditions and current weather information are also available on the Internet at www.dot.state.ia.us/winter.htm.

Before taking a trip, inform someone at your destination of your expected arrival time and your travel route. Keep your gas tank full. Take your cell phone. If you do become stranded, call *55 to contact the Iowa State Patrol.

For more information about winter preparedness and the Iowa DOT's snow and ice control program, contact Dennis Burkheimer of the Highway Division at 515-239-1355, or check out the DOT's Web site at www.dot.state.ia.us/winter.htm.

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