CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As the busiest travel holiday of the year collides with icy, snowy and rainy conditions up and down the East Coast, AAA Carolinas advises travelers to carefully monitor weather forecasts before setting out on the road to ensure the safety of you and your family. Also consider altering your plans to avoid traveling through the worst of the storm.
Ninety percent of Thanksgiving travelers in the Carolinas will drive to their destination, with the highest number -- 37 percent -- departing Wednesday. Drivers are encouraged to slow down, particularly when driving in winter weather conditions, and expect it to take longer to reach their destination.
WINTER DRIVING TIPS:
• Increase your following distance from three to four seconds to eight to 10 seconds. On dry pavement at 20 mph it takes about 20 feet to stop. On ice-covered roads at 25 degrees, it takes 145 feet to stop – seven times further. Keep your speed appropriate to the needed stopping distance.
• Brake gradually with steady pressure on the brake. If you begin to skid, steer in the direction you want to go. If you have anti-lock brakes, keep the brake firmly engaged; if you don't have anti-lock brakes, gently depress the brake pedal. Don't slam on your brakes; it can cause you to lose control. If the brakes lock, release the brake and gently brake again while keeping your heel on the floor.
• Be especially wary on hills. Observe how other vehicles are reacting.
Build momentum at the bottom of the hill and reduce speed when cresting the hill.
• Stay in the most recently cleared lane on snowy four-lane highways. Avoid changing lanes because of potential control loss when driving over built-up snow between lanes.
• Avoid using cruise control in rainy, slick or snowy conditions.
• Be careful crossing bridges and overpasses as these freeze before the regular roadway.
• Traction is greatest right before the wheels start to spin. Press gently on the accelerator and use a higher (second or third) gear when first getting started. Keep in mind that roads are the slickest during the first 15 minutes of a rain shower.
• Slow down sooner and gradually when approaching an intersection to allow yourself more time to react. Watch out for polished or packed snow at stoplights or intersections, which can make halting more treacherous. Heavy-footed drivers also spin their tires when starting, which worsens the problem. If possible, stop or start safely on a slightly different line. Fresh snow or less polished areas almost always offer better traction.
• Keep your lights on. Using your headlights improves visibility, both yours and other drivers. Many states, North and South Carolina included, require your headlights to be on when your windshield wipers are in use.
WINTER PREPARATION TIPS:
• Check your battery for its charge, cold cranking amps and connections for corrosion. When starting your car in the morning, turn on electricity first and wait 30 seconds for the battery to warm up before starting.
• Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid freezing gas lines.
• Thinner grades of oil are better for colder weather; opt for 5W-30 over 10W-30.
• Check tire pressure every one to two weeks as low temperatures can reduce tire pressure and will limit control on slick roads.
• Never use wiper blades to clear ice or frost as this damages the blades. Use a scraper or can de-icer. Make sure all windows are clear for best visibility.
• Never warm up your car in a closed garage; carbon monoxide poisoning is possible. In some counties, it is illegal to warm up a car parked on public streets when the driver is not in the car.
• Keep an emergency kit in your car. Make sure it includes a mobile phone, car charger, blankets, flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, drinking water, a small shovel, a sack of sand or cat litter for traction, windshield scraper, battery booster cables, emergency reflectors and non-perishable snacks.