Safety tips for driving in icy conditions

By Jennifer Reyna - Anchor/Reporter , Idolina Peralez , Jill Courtney

HOUSTON - As the Houston area prepares for icy conditions Thursday night and Friday morning, officials are reminding drivers to use extreme caution on the roadways.

Houston's last major ice event was back in February 2011. There were more than 800 accidents in one day.

To stay safe, the Harris County Sheriff's Office Motorist Assistance Program offers a few slick road defensive tactics.

Of most importance, officials say slow down and stay about three or four car lengths behind the driver in front of you.

If you do hit ice, do not slam on your breaks. Stay calm and don't over react.

If your car starts to spin out, officials suggest turning your wheel into the direction your car is going. While you may end up on the side of the road, it is better than flipping your car.

Also be aware of your surroundings. The hot spots for ice are on bridges and overpasses.

Lastly, don't use cruise control.

"It's not a good idea because what happens when you use cruise control? You aren't in control of the vehicle," said Sgt. Jeffery McGowen with the Harris County Sheriff's Office MAP.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) has also offered the following safety tips for driving in cold weather.

1. Prepare a special emergency kit for your car and keep it there throughout the season.  Your winter weather car-kit should include:

  • A distress flag
  • Blankets
  • Extra food and water
  • Flashlights and batteries

2. Check your tires for air and wear. Be sure to keep tow and tire chains in your trunk as well.

3. If visibility is impaired, pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.

4. Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close but be too far to walk to in deep snow.

5. If stranded, run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

6. Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs - the use of lights, heat, and radio – with supply.

7. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.

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