Even though Baltimore is located south of the Mason-Dixon Line, its drivers are not exempted from dealing with hazardous winter driving conditions. With an annual seasonal average of more than 20 inches of snow, the area is subject to freezing rain, sleet and a combination of precipitation that present challenging and dangerous winter driving hazards. The best advice to drivers during a winter storm is to stay off of the roadways entirely or take public transportation if at all possible. If that’s not possible, then proceed with caution, drive defensively and use common sense. Local driving safety experts offered these winter driving tips.
Antwerpen Chrysler Jeep
6440 Baltimore National Pike
Baltimore, Md. 21228
A full-service vehicle dealer, Antwerpen Chrysler Jeep offers a modern, fully-equipped service and parts department. Financing is available for qualified drivers. Staff here suggest that before venturing out in the cold, you perform a vehicle safety check to ensure the brakes are in proper working order and that tires are inflated to the optimal air pressure and have evenly wearing tread. Check to make sure the spare tire is inflated and can be used if needed. Take the vehicle to a service center and have the antifreeze, oil and other fluid levels checked. Keep an extra container of antifreeze in the vehicle for use when and if needed. Consider purchasing snow tires. Make sure the windshield wipers are in good condition. If a vehicle is equipped with four-wheel drive, know how to use it during winter storms.
Maryland State Highway Administration
707 N. Calvert St.
Baltimore, Md. 21202
The Maryland State Highway Administration is responsible for the maintenance of the state’s roads. During the winter, its snow plows clear snow and treat highway surfaces with anti-skid and other chemicals that help keep roadways clear of ice and snow. No matter what the weather, first and foremost, buckle up and make sure all passengers do the same — it’s the law here. Depending on the winter forecast, a snow emergency may be declared. At such times, try to avoid driving or plan for extra time to get to the destination. Four-wheel drive vehicles are great in the snow, but four-wheel drive does not prevent skidding on ice, so slow down and drive with caution. Also, don’t crowd the plow. Do not attempt to pass a snow plow or salt truck or a group of plows and trucks working together to clear and treat roads.
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration
6601 Ritchie Highway, NE
Glen Burnie, Md. 21062
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration urges drivers to know their vehicles, inside and out. Different vehicles have different handling capabilities when subjected to different weather conditions. Knowing a vehicle’s limitations is an essential first step in surviving winter driving conditions. It’s a good idea to practice driving in the snow, but not on main roads or major highways during a snow emergency. Instead, practice driving on an empty, snow-covered parking lot during daylight hours. When out on the road, use caution and drive slowly; no fast starts or stops. Maintain a longer following distance behind other vehicles when the roads are icy and snow-covered. Learn how to safely apply the brakes no matter the road conditions. With anti-lock brakes, apply steady pressure. With regular brakes, gently pump brakes to stop gradually in slick conditions. Avoid braking on ice, letting off of the gas until you’ve regained control.
Baltimore Police Department
242 W. 29th St.
Baltimore, Md. 21211
The Baltimore City Police Department recommends that during a winter storm situation, the public check local news and weather broadcasts for the latest information on road conditions. Dress warmly, with layers, in extreme cold weather. Stock the vehicle with blankets, a jug of water, jumper cables, a bag of sand or ice melt, and always keep a flashlight with fresh batteries on hand. A first aid kit is also a good thing to have in good or bad weather. Bridges and elevated highways freeze before other surfaces. I-83 is particularly prone to freezing problems. Be mindful that power outages often accompany severe winter storms, which may cause traffic signals to stop functioning. Approach intersections with caution, and reduce speed as a precaution. Snow must be cleared from the roof and other surfaces of a vehicle before you head out on the highway.
Greg’s Driving School
3 Ridgeside Court Suite 101
Mt. Airy, Md. 21771
With locations around the state, Greg’s Driving School has been teaching Maryland drivers since 1992. For winter driving, Greg’s suggests drivers assemble a winter breakdown kit before venturing out into a winter storm. The kit should include basic repair tools, such as a jack and a lug wrench. It’s always wise to have jumper cables on hand because cold weather can suck the life from an older battery. Snow chains are another item that provide needed traction in particularly slick conditions. Keep an ice scraper and de-icer on hand. Make sure cellphones are charged and operating correctly. During a winter roadside emergency, a fully charged cellphone may be a life saver.
1 River Place
Wilmington, Del. 19801
The Mid-Atlantic AAA recommends cruise control be turned off when driving on wet roads. Visibility is always a factor when driving during a winter storm. To avoid glare, keep headlights on low beam. When stopping at intersections, drive as far into the intersection as possible to provide an unobstructed view of both directions before attempting to cross. If the vehicle begins to skid, ease off the accelerator, grip the steering wheel and turn into the skid. Make sure the front end of the car is pointed in the intended direction.
Jeffrey B. Roth has won numerous state and national news and feature-writing awards during his career. A well-known crime writer, investigative reporter and a feature writer, Roth writes for a number of magazines and newspapers. Listed in the Locus Index of SciFi and Fantasy authors, Roth is the author of a number of published short stories and poetry. His work can be found on Examiner.com.