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Get prepared for dangerous winter driving

It's time to get ready for the winter weather. Snowy and icy conditions on the roads pose a hazard to all drivers. Around 70 percent of citizens of this country live in areas that get at least five inches of snow; in Connecticut, we often see substantially more.

Preparing to drive during the winter months starts before you leave home. Here are some points to remember as you are getting ready to venture out in the colder months of the year:

Statistics show the danger

Around 24 percent of all weather-related crashes occur on icy, snowy or slushy roads. These road conditions contribute to more than 116,800 injuries and over 1,300 deaths each year.

Somewhere around 15 percent of weather-related crashes happen during sleet or snowfall. All told, almost 76,000 people are injured in these crashes and nearly 900 die in them annually.

One factor that contributes to dangers of winter roads is that emergency medical technicians, police officers and firemen might not be able to traverse them. Even with the road crews salting the roads, there is a chance that they will be impassible, which can delay emergency services from reaching an accident.

Getting ready to drive

Checking your vehicle's brakes and tire pressure can help to keep you safe. Because the roads can be slick under winter precipitation, you need to be sure that your tires have grip and the brakes are in good condition. If you are on icy roads, including hidden black ice, your brakes aren't going to do any good since you will likely skid.

If you do skid, remember to steer into the skid to help you regain control. If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, press the brake pedal firmly and hold it when you need to stop. Brakes without the anti-lock feature must be pumped instead of held firmly. Also, remember that it will take you longer to stop on snowy or slick pavement.

You also need to get an emergency kit in your vehicle. This should include supplies to help you survive if you are involved in an accident or get stranded on the road: blankets, hats, gloves, a flashlight and extra batteries, a shovel, flares, nonperishable foods, bottled water, kitty litter or sand, and an ice scraper. Be sure that you shovel snow away from the tailpipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning if you are stranded.

When the weather is especially bad and the roads are snowy, stay home if you can. Give salt crews a chance to get the salt out on the roads. One study by Marquette University noted that salt can reduce crashes by 88 percent, injuries by 85 percent and the cost of accidents by 85 percent.

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