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10 Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Experts give their advice for preparing yourself and your car for winter's challenges.

Avoid Distractions While Driving

Keep your eyes on the road. Accidents can result from driver distractibility. Studies have found that rubbernecking and cell phone use in cars can put you at greater risk for accidents. During winter months and severe weather, it's even more important that your attention be fully on the road.

Consider Your Age

Your age does matter when it comes to driving because driving-related injuries can spell more serious trouble for older adults. Brittle bones make injuries from accidents more risky for older adults, Weis says. "A younger person can walk away from a crash, but older adults may sustain more serious injuries, so it's important that they are prepared," she says. Both AAA and the American Geriatrics Society have more information about driving safety for older individuals on their web sites, including information that can help you assess whether you should still be driving.

Prepare a Winter Driving Kit for Your Car

Your car should be stocked with certain necessities in case of emergencies -- which may include running out of gas, getting into an accident, getting lost, or having your car break down. Weis says your kit should include blankets, water, a fully charged cell phone, a reflector, kitty litter or salt for ice, and some food.

Get Your Eyes Checked Annually

Annual eye exams are an important part of driving safety. "Fewer hours of daylight means more hours of difficult driving," Perry Binder, MD, an ophthalmologist from San Diego, tells WebMD.

Binder says there is also less contrast on gray days. He warns of the brightness and glare that can appear when driving in snow. "Snow and ice require slower time to react especially because of skidding," says Binder, who agrees with Weis that slowing down and increasing the distance between you and other vehicles is key.

Clear Ice and Snow From Your Vehicle

If there has been a storm, allow the plows to do their job before you head out, Weis says. Have a brush to clear all of the ice and snow from your vehicle before you start driving.

Don't skip the roof of the car, because snow can fall on rear and front windows while you are driving, blocking your vision unexpectedly. Make sure your lights are visible and not covered with snow and ice as well.

You should also warm up your vehicle before you drive, but according to AAA don't do so in an enclosed space like a garage. Car exhaust is a common source of carbon monoxide, and adequate ventilation is necessary to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Recognize When You Are in No Condition to Drive

The car isn't the only thing that needs to be prepared -- the driver does, too. That's why Weis says you should avoid driving when you don't feel well. If you are tired or have been drinking, steer clear of the wheel.

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