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Tips for getting through winter safely

Experts have advice for staying safe on the road and at home

HARTFORD, Conn. — With winter weather comes freezing cold temperatures, ice, and snow. Wednesday, Connecticut residents found themselves trying to navigate icy roads while those traveling in Virginia earlier in the week were trapped on frozen roadways.

So what can you do to stay safe? 

We've taken the advice from the American Red Cross, AAA, and Porter and Chester and combined them here.

Tips for your vehicle

  • Battery and Charging System: Check your battery and charging system. It’s best to have a fully charged battery in good condition for cold weather.  A car battery will last three to five years, but your driving habits can increase or decrease the lifespan. Contact a trained professional to test the battery.
  • Tires: Checking and replace tires if they're not suitable for winter.  That also includes making sure the tires you have are designed for winter driving.
  • Tire Pressure: Cold temperatures can effect tire pressure. The recommended tire pressure for your car can be found in the owners manual or on a sticker on the door jamb. When temperatures drop, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees.
  • Gas: Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Check Antifreeze: You can get a test for the antifreeze protection level with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store. Always check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, you should add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability.
  • Washer Fluid: Always fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezin and buying new wipers might be necessary. 
  • Roadside Assistance: AAA members can call for a roadside rescue at 1-800-AAA-HELP.  Check the expiration date on your AAA card to ensure your membership is valid.
  • Brakes: Checking signs of wear on brake pads and rotors and all-wheel-drive functions. Also windshield wiper fluid should be replenished 
  • Emergency Kit: Assemble an emergency preparedness kit: Pack a winter-specific supply kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing for each family member. Sand or non-clumping cat litter is good to have on hand to help make walkways or steps less slippery. Additionally, make sure you have a first aid kit and a supply of essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home in the event of a power outage.
  • Passengers: Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
  • Distance: Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways. Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Plows: Don’t pass snow plows. Give them space to avoid being pelted by salt
  • Freeze Alert: Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.
  • If you become stranded:
    • Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
    • Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
    • Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
    • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.

RELATED: WEATHER WATCH: Accumulating snow likely for Friday morning commute

Check Storm closings here

Check traffic here

Tips for keeping your house safe

  • Pipes: Turn water off to outside faucets to reduce chances for freezing
  • Windows: Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
  • Heat: Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand. Conserve fuel. Winter storms can last for several days, placing great demand on electric, gas, and other fuel distribution systems (fuel oil, propane, etc.).
  • Stay indoors: Wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. If you feel too warm, remove layers to avoid sweating; if you feel chilled, add layers.
  • Welfare of others: Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.

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RELATED: Virginia Senator lauds CT family's generosity while stuck on highway during snowstorm

Tips for being outside

  • Clothing: Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
  • Breathing: Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Keep dry: Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
  • Stay loose: Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
  • Take it easy: Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
  • Walking: Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
  • Driving: If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

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