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January Brings Driving Challenges to Wisconsin

PHOTO: January often brings a double challenge for Wisconsin drivers, who must either battle bitter cold or slippery roads, sometimes both. AAA Wisconsin recommends staying with your vehicle if you break down or get in a wreck, it's safest to stay with your vehicle and wait for assistance. Photo credit: travelwisconsin.com
PHOTO: January often brings a double challenge for Wisconsin drivers, who must either battle bitter cold or slippery roads, sometimes both. AAA Wisconsin recommends staying with your vehicle if you break down or get in a wreck, it's safest to stay with your vehicle and wait for assistance. Photo credit: travelwisconsin.com
January 5, 2015

MADISON, Wis. – January always brings challenges to motorists in one form or another, says Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA Wisconsin.

Drivers face the challenges of bitter cold weather and slippery roads, and often both at the same time.

One thing Jarmusz strongly recommends is, if your car freezes up or breaks down, or if you get in a wreck, stay with your vehicle.

"If you start venturing away from your car, the elements are going to be a bigger danger to you than if you were to stay and wait,” he warns. “If you're on a road you can either flag down help or wait for an emergency vehicle. If you have your cell phone you can call for help."

Jarmusz says when extreme cold weather hits, don't hit the road with a nearly empty tank.

"Keep at least a half tank of gas in your car at all times during cold weather to avoid engine freeze-up,” he advises. “That way, if you do get stranded you have enough gas to periodically run the engine to keep the car warmed up."

And he says it's best to check your car's battery before a cold spell.

Faulty car batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor. At zero degrees, even a good battery has about 35 percent less starting power.

Another point to keep in mind, according to Jarmusz, is to disengage cruise control when you encounter snowy or slippery roads.

"It maintains a specific speed, and if you begin to slide the vehicle is going to want to keep the wheels spinning at the same rate in order to maintain the same speed,” he points out. “So what it's going to do is contribute to loss of control and if you run into a less traction situation the wheels are going to keep spinning."

When roads are slippery, Jarmusz says, front wheel drive and all wheel drive can help a great deal to get your car going, but once you're at speed, they do nothing to help slow down or stop your vehicle.

If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, he recommends applying constant, firm pressure to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop under slippery conditions.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI