Don’t let winter catch you unprepared.

The National Weather Service (NWS)  says researchers found 70 percent of fatalities related to ice and snow happen in automobiles, and about 25 percent of all winter-related fatalities are people caught off guard out in the storm.

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The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) said before leaving home, people should find out about the driving conditions. If the weather is bad, they should follow INDOT’s slogan: ice and snow, take it slow.

Before hitting the road, INDOT says people should remove any snow on their windows, lights, brake lights and signals. They should also check their vehicle’s wipers, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses to make sure they won’t have a breakdown on the road.  People should also keep a winter survival kit in their vehicles.

After hitting the road, INDOT says people should leave plenty of time to reach their destination safely. They should also be on the lookout for hazards along the road including:

  • First Snow or Ice:  INDOT says drivers are often unprepared for winter driving and forget to take it slow.  They remind people to drive well below the posted speed limit and leave plenty of room between cars.
  • Black Ice:  Roads that seem dry may actually be slippery – and dangerous.  INDOT reminds people to take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas. All of these locations are hot spots for black ice.
  • Limited Visibility: INDOT reminds drivers to stay attentive and reduce their speed.  Know what’s going on around you.
  • Four-Wheel Drive:  On snow and ice, go slowly, no matter what type of vehicle you drive.  INDOT says even if you have an SUV with four-wheel drive you may not be able to stop any faster, or maintain control any better, once you lose traction.  Four-wheel drive may get you going faster, but it won’t help you stop sooner.

If you start to skid, don’t panic. The NWS says drivers should ease their foot off the gas and turn their wheels in the direction they want the front of the car to go.

If you are having trouble seeing due to weather conditions, pull over and stop until visibility improves. Make sure to turn off your lights and use your parking brake so other cars don’t get confused and wind up hitting you.

If your car gets stuck, the NWS says to stay inside your car, run the motor for about 10 minutes every hour to stay warm, open the window while running the motor to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and clear the snow from the exhaust to avoid gas poisoning.

Make sure your stuck vehicle is visible to rescuers by turning on the dome light at night while running the engine, tieing a bright-colored cloth to your antenna or door, and raising the hood after the snow stops to indicate you need help.