With the first snowfall here and Thanksgiving only a week away, we’re all looking forward to getting together soon with family and friends.  Although we look forward to the time together, nothing creates stress quite like holiday crowds and severe winter weather.  With a few travel, safety and driving tips (and a few reminders about what we already know), we can do everything we can to prepare and stay safe – even if we can’t prevent the seemingly inevitable holiday crowds and traffic jams.

If you’re flying

–          Plan ahead.   Waiting until the last minute is not only more expensive, but can lead to more connections and preventable stress.

–          Leave early.  As we were all told as children, don’t procrastinate, start early and give yourself more time than you think you need.

–          Pack light.  With more people travelling, reduce your chances of losing your luggage by carrying everything on if you can.  Consider having gifts shipped to your destination.

–          Avoid getting sick.  Most germs spread by contact, so wash your hands often, don’t leave the hand sanitizer at home and remember that someone else touches almost everything you touch while you’re flying  – that includes your bags, your tickets and your photo ID.

–          Stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat.  Packing healthy snacks in a carry-on and buying a big bottle of water as soon as you’re through security can minimize fatigue and the stress of wondering when (and if) they’re going to serve snacks and drinks on a flight.

If you’re driving

–          Have your car checked to make sure it’s operating in peak condition.  Replace worn wiper blades, make certain your tires are properly inflated, keep your windows clean.

–          Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

–          Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.

–          Pack a safety kit.  Don’t leave home without a cell phone (with car charger), ice scraper, shovel, jumper cables, sand or cat litter for traction, blankets, flashlights, extra batteries, warning devices (like flares), extra warm clothing and a first aid kit.  For longer trips, don’t forget food, water and medication.

–          Plan ahead.  Know your route, check the weather, leave early, let others know your route and estimated arrival time.

–          Know your brakes.  What kind do you have?  How will antilock brakes vs. non-antilock brakes perform in cold, ice and snow?

–          Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.

–          Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Winter weather makes it even more important to get the proper amount of rest to stay alert while driving.  If you’re getting tired, stop and switch drivers or rest until you’re able to safely drive again.

–          Make frequent stops.  Taking time to stop and stretch your legs improves alertness.

–          Always wear your seat belt, every time you get into your vehicle (you be should anyway – it’s the law in Ohio).  Always use child safety seats properly (you should be anyway – it’s the law in Ohio).

–          Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver.

–          Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface.

–          If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.

–          Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry.  Take time to slow down for a stoplight.  Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.

–          Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.

–          If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle.  It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm.  It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.

–          Remember: even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone  can. If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

Many of the driving  tips above are suggested by AAA, to see a full list and watch a video on safe winter driving visit AAA’s website: http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/roadway-safety/winter-driving-tips/