Though the weather may not be showing it yet, Sunday marked the beginning of Winter Weather Awareness Week, which means it's that time of year to get in the right mind set for winter driving. Preparing now can avoid a lot of headaches later on.
It's important to check tire pressure and tread, replace ineffective windshield wipers and test batteries, which are adversely affected by extreme cold.
Tire tread is especially important to keep track of. One way to do so is to use a penny. If you put a penny with Lincoln's head facing down into the tire treads, the treading should reach his head. When it no longer does, it's time for a change.
"Seems like most of the time people go in the ditch it's because the tires are worn down," said Jim Berge, owner of Bob's Auto Service on West and Jackson. "We check all that when we do an oil change, so maybe consider a fall oil change, and make sure everything's getting checked over when they do it."
Even if your car is ready for winter, we as drivers may not be. It's important to give yourself more space between yours and other vehicles, signal and brake sooner, and keep in mind that posted speed limits are for good weather conditions.
"Just because it doesn't look icy, doesn't mean it's not slick," said Deputy Brian Buckmaster of the La Crosse County Sheriff's Department. "Just be ready for everything to be slippery and you'll be okay."
And if you get stuck, it's a good idea to stay put.
"At least inside your car you're protected if somebody would slide into you," added Buckmaster. "So stay inside the car, call on the phone and get some wrecker or the police to come help."
Finally, when you warm up before leaving, do it outside of the garage and make sure the tailpipe is clear of any snow to avoid carbon monoxide exposure.
Although, unless your car still has a carburetor (which typically hasn't been standard since the 1970's, although there were still a few left in the early 1990's), it doesn't necessarily need to be warmed up.
"It does nothing for the car [but] the gas companies will like you for it," said Berge. "Get in the car start it up, get your seat belt buckled, get your heater turned on, and just drive easy for the first mile or two. [It] warms your car up quicker and uses less gas."
Keeping these things in mind can keep your winter driving season less expensive and ultimately safer.
Wisconsin Emergency Management says approximately 50 people are killed and more than 4,900 are injured in crashes on icy or snow covered roads in Wisconsin every year. Many of those crashes are the result of driving too fast for conditions.