Winter Driving Checklists, Pitfalls and Lessons

John Paul, AAA SNE’s "Car Doctor," gives winter driving & car maintenance tips and encourages teaching kids good traffic safety habits using programs such as AAA’s Traffic Safety Message Contest.

It may have been delayed, but winter driving season is here, and with it comes dangerous road conditions and the need to maintain your car. Experienced drivers may not be fazed by the threat of Nor’easters and sub-freezing temperatures and have their vehicles prepared for winter, but many teens and young adults lack this knowledge to be safe on the road.

John Paul, AAA Southern New England’s “Car Doctor,” stresses the importance of scheduling periodic automobile checkups to maintain safety and maximize efficiency.

“Whether you’re expecting extreme cold or wintry precipitation, it’s a good idea for new drivers to get in the habit of scheduling regular maintenance and seasonal checkups,” said Paul. “AAA Southern New England receives millions of roadside assistance calls annually, and many of these breakdowns could have been avoided with proactive car care.”

Paul recommends that parents sit down and work with their teens to help them gain the necessary knowledge and experience for safe winter commuting. Families can use a simple checklist to determine the winter maintenance needs of their vehicles. Many items can be inspected by a car owner in less than an hour, but others should be performed by a certified technician.

Paul highlights some of the key items to look for in your car this winter, including:

  • Tires: Are tires properly inflated and have adequate tread depth for winter? Should you consider snow tires?
  • Lights: Are your brake, indicator and headlights functioning? Interior lights?
  • Wiper blades: Do the windshield wipers streak or chatter? Consider all-season or dedicated winter wiper blades. As a general rule replace wiper blades once per year.
  • Brakes: Have the brakes inspected at every tire rotation or at the first sign of a problem.
  • Washer fluid: Keep the windshield washer full and use only windshield washer solution designed for winter conditions.

Paul’s complete winter car care checklist can be found online here.

Paul also suggests that parents work with their children and teens to ingrain good traffic safety habits before reaching driving age. Paul recommends programs such as AAA’s annual Traffic Safety Message contest as a great way to spur young people into action. The contest invites students in grades K-12 to create posters or PSAs illustrating powerful safety-related messages. Entries will be accepted through www.aaa.com/safetymatters until April 1.

“The goal of this contest is peer to peer education,” said Paul. “We hope young people will learn safe behaviors in traffic by taking the time to create a poster with a creative slogan or by viewing a powerful video that they can easily recall.”

Topics covered in the past include seatbelt and booster seat use, school bus and bike safety, and distracted and impaired driving awareness.  A full list of valid topics and rules can be found here and entries can be submitted online here or through mail to AAA Southern New England’s offices.  The work of one grand prize winner will be chosen to receive $1,000 and three runners-up from each state in AAA Southern New England’s territory (Massachusetts/Salem, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut) will receive $300, $200 and $100 prizes respectively. Honorable mentions at each grade level in each state will receive $50.

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