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Tips to keep you safe for winter driving

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– With snow starting to fall again in central Indiana, it’s time to go through the winter driving checklist to make sure you and your car are ready. We’re expecting accumulating snow and a messy morning commute on Thursday.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) says they will have crews out in force Wednesday night into Thursday. Bridges are pre-treated and trucks will begin patrolling at 10 p.m. They’ll have a full driver call out by midnight and they’ll stay active through the end of the morning rush hour.

The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) offered these tips to help keep drivers safe:

Make sure your tires can grip slippery roads

Get your tires checked and ask the specialists about your traction needs. Check and maintain your tire air pressure levels regularly throughout the winter. Winter debris can cause tears and leaks and extremely cold air can drop your air pressure levels. Take a few seconds to check tire pressure levels each week.

Give yourself a winter test drive

Before you hit the road, make sure you understand how your car handles in winter conditions. During the first storm of the season, drive to a safe open space nearby to try out your brakes, traction and steering on icy, wet or snow-packed pavement. You will learn how to recognize when your car is sliding and how to regain control once it does.

Know what to expect on your trip and plan accordingly

If you know you need to travel through bad weather conditions, be sure to check for travel advisories on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. Visit Indiana’s Department of Transportation website for information and alerts about your local weather, road conditions and traffic levels.

You can also get the latest weather forecast from CBS4Indy. Don’t forget to check out the Indy Weather Authority app in your app store as well.

If you start sliding, turn slightly into the skid

Once your vehicle begins to slide, your tires have lost traction with the road. It may seem counterintuitive, but in order to avoid a spinout you need to turn slightly into the skid, slowly let of the gas and begin pumping the breaks. Yanking the wheel in the other direction and locking the brakes will stop your tires from turning, but you are less likely to regain traction with the road surface.

Slow down and relax

Do everything more slowly and more lightly than you normally would. Hitting your gas pedal, clamping your breaks or cranking your wheel too quickly will cause loss of traction on an icy or wet road.

Know when to quit

Sometimes road conditions are simply too dangerous for safe travel. If you cannot see or you keep losing control, pull over. Never push your luck if you are unsure. It is not worth jeopardizing your safety or the safety of other drivers on the road.

Prepare an emergency roadside kit

Here’s a full list of supplies you may want to include in your kit:

  • Tools: jack, lug wrench, shovel
  • Chains or traction tires
  • Extra car fluids: oil, washer fluid, antifreeze
  • Non-clumping kitty litter, sand or de-icer
  • Reflectors and flags
  • Road maps
  • Extra warm clothes, boots, hat and gloves
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Cell phone and car adapter
  • Rechargeable flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Matches or lighter
  • Battery jumper cables
  • Extra food and water
  • Blanket/sleeping bags
  • Pocket knife

A few weeks ago, DPW and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the DPW fleet would include eleven new salt and plow trucks this season, with four more on the way. DPW Director Dan Parker said the department starts the season with 24,000 tons of salt, which means all the city’s salt barns are full.

DPW and INDOT urged drivers to keep an eye on the forecast and be mindful of conditions before starting their commute. They also asked drivers to be patient and give salt truck drivers plenty of room to do their jobs.

“Do not try to cut off a snow truck,” said DPW Director Dan Parker. “It is a 20-ton truck with 6-tons of salt in the back. It is not something you should play with.”

You can monitor DPW snow removal efforts on their online Indy Snow Force Viewer. Check interstate travel conditions here.

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