Although this winter has been very mild, we will soon be forced to drive in less than ideal weather conditions. Winter driving can be hazardous. However, many accidents can be prevented by following the below winter safe driving tips.

The three P’s of Safe Winter Driving Are: prepare for the trip; protect yourself; and prevent accidents.

Prepare for the trip

Clean Off Your Car: Clean snow and ice off of your car before starting your trip.

Have On Hand: Flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, even floor mats), shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, warning devices (like flares) and blankets.

Maintain Your Car: Check battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers, keep your windows clear, put no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir, and check your antifreeze.

Plan Your Route: Allow plenty of time (check the weather and leave early if necessary), be familiar with the directions, and let others know your route and arrival time.

Stopped or Stalled? Stay in your car and put bright markers on antenna or windows. If you run your car, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow/ice and run it just enough to stay warm. At night, keep the dome light on. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.

Protect yourself

Buckle up and use child safety seats properly.

Never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an air bag.

Children 12 and under are much safer in the back seat.

Don’t idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.

Prevent Accidents

Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can.

Slow Down! Posted speed limits are designed for optimal driving conditions. No need to adhere to a higher speed because it’s posted.

Four-wheel drive may give you false sense of security.

Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy or snow-covered roads.

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

The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.

Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.

Steer into a skid.

Know what your brakes will do: stomp on antilock brakes, pump on non-antilock brakes.

Drugs and alcohol never mix with driving.

Keep your eyes open for pedestrians walking in the road.

Avoid fatigue - Get plenty of rest before the trip, stop at least every three hours, and rotate drivers if possible.

For more information about safe winter driving go to: www.nhtsa.gov and www.aaa.com