FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 20, 2013) -- As holidays approach and Soldiers, Families and civilians prepare for long road trips to airports and distant Family, installation officials want to remind motorists to prepare for increased traffic and poor weather conditions during the holiday season.

To make sure that people reach their destinations safely, officials ask that people make sure their vehicles are in tip-top shape before driving in adverse weather, and to adhere to the following tips and advice from installation officials to help enjoy a safe holiday season.

"Preparing to drive in winter is essential [for safety],"said Sharon Manning, installation safety office."One of the most important things is to make sure that your car is in good condition and ready to deal with the cold, snow and ice of winter."

Although much of the South doesn't experience winter weather like snow and ice, Manning said it's necessary to be prepared for anything if traveling during this time of year where the weather is often unpredictable.

"If you're approaching the time for a full service for your vehicle, don't procrastinate. Get an oil change, and make sure that you choose the right viscosity for the vehicle for this time of year," she said. "Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it's too thick, it won't do the best job keeping the engine lubricated."

Manning said that this is the time of year to make sure that your car battery's posts and connections are corrosion-free, and if the battery is more than three years old, have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge.

"When having a full-service check done on a vehicle, make sure that the belts and hoses are checked for wear and tear, even if you are driving a newer car. Cold weather can do a number on the belts and hoses of a car, so they deserve attention around this time of year."

Manning said that tires must be properly inflated to ensure the best possible traction with the road.

"Traction is often severely jeopardized in wet, snowy or icy conditions. You can generally expect that tires will lose one pound per square inch of pressure whenever the temperature drops by 10 degrees," she said.

She also advises people to check the status of the four-wheel-drive system to be sure it's working correctly.

"Most drivers don't use their four-wheel-drive systems in the summer months, so be sure that the system engages and disengages easily, and that all drivers in your household know how and when to activate it."

One aspect of car safety that is often forgotten in the South is the proper amount of antifreeze, said Manning.

"People should aim to have a 50-50 mix of antifreeze, or coolant, and water inside the radiator. This will prevent the mixture from freezing. It's easy to check the status of the mixture with a tester that can be picked up at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, the cooling system should be drained and refilled," she said. "People should also make sure they are equipped to dispose of old antifreeze properly if they do it themselves."

During the winter months, people should prepare a special-emergency kit that they can store in their trunks, she continued.

Some of the items people should have in their kit are: blankets; boots and gloves; warm clothes; water and food, including hard candies; an ice scraper; a small shovel; a flashlight; windshield washer fluid; windshield wipers; flares; jumper cables; a small tool kit; a tire gauge; a spare tire with air in it; tire-changing equipment; a first-aid kit; paper towels; and a bag of abrasive material, such as sand.

Manning's final tip is to only drive during daylight hours and to take 10-15 minute breaks because it can rejuvenate drivers.

Manning isn't the only official who commented about Families on the road for Christmas.

Weather conditions can change quickly, placing extra demands on vehicles and driving skills, so Maj. Joshua Munch, Fort Rucker deputy provost marshal, said that the best advice for road safety is to keep the driver's focus on the road and on other vehicles, and to eliminate all distractions.

"Make sure you have the proper car seat for your child's age and weight," he said. "Have them occupied with a game or movie so they do not get bored and distract you from driving."

Road rage is another aspect of sharing the road with thousands of other drivers, but Munch advises everyone to be the bigger person and to keep their cool, no matter what.

"Be courteous on the road. If someone tailgates you or cuts you off, don't make the situation worse. People have been shot in road rage incidents. It is not worth it," he said.

Munch continued by saying that technology can also hinder a safe trip.

"A lot of people have global positioning systems. It is vital that [drivers] update them before a long road trip," he said. "It is also a good idea to have a citizens band emergency radio. If you do not have cell service and you are out on the road somewhere, a CB radio can be a priceless tool to get help."

In order to help people on Fort Rucker stay safe throughout the holidays, the automotive skills center is offering free pre-Christmas vehicle inspections. For more information, call 255-9725.

"We conduct these free safety inspections before most major holidays. We want to make sure Soldiers and their Families are safe before they go on long trips," said Tina Barber, auto skills center program manager.

The mechanics will do an overall inspection of the vehicle -- checking multiple areas, including engine fluid levels, radiator fans, tire condition, belts and lights.

Page last updated Fri December 20th, 2013 at 00:00