FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 26, 2018) -- Winters in the North Country can sometimes induce a bit of white-knuckle driving - when tense hands grip the steering wheel in anticipation of the worst that can happen.

That tension can be alleviated when motorists know how to respond correctly to road conditions, and the Fort Drum Command Safety Office is providing that knowledge to community members now through Dec. 11.

The winter driving course instructs community members on how to safely navigate through a season of snow and ice on the roads, how to winterize a vehicle and what motorists need to do before leaving home.

John Drozd, safety and occupational health specialist, said that the class is open to Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and Fort Drum family members - and many who attend are new to winter driving. Still, he said, people of all experience levels can benefit from refresher training.

"For many, this is the first time they've ever seen snow, but I always say it's the experienced drivers you have to watch out for because they sometimes become complacent or overconfident in their abilities," he said. "I know, for myself, every year I need to remind myself to slow down when it starts snowing."

Drozd said that many accidents can be avoided if people employ "see and be seen" precautions. That means clearing the entire vehicle of any snow and ice before driving, and that includes mirrors, headlights and parking lights.

"Don't forget to check your wipers too, because if they are frozen to the windshield then you're not going to have them when you need them," Drozd said.

He also advised to plan ahead for even the shortest trips. Account for time needed to get the vehicle ready for the road, and then additional travel time to account for the adverse weather and road conditions. This will help motorists avoid arriving late or having to rush to a destination.

"Before going anywhere, you should prepare for the trip," Drozd said. "Know the conditions all along the route and drive accordingly - that means slowing down and increasing the following distance to the car ahead of you."

Just as people sometimes wait for the snow to fall before pulling out the snow shovels and winter boots, motorists sometimes forget to properly winterize their vehicles.

"That means turning on all the lights to make sure they are working, because you always want to see and be seen while driving," Drozd said. "Check the treads on your tires and air pressure, and make sure the heater and defroster works properly."

He also recommends checking the vehicle for adequate antifreeze, oil and other fluids for winter driving.

The next winter driving course is scheduled 2 to 3 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. Nov. 13; 2 to 3 p.m. Nov. 27, 2 to 3 p.m. Dec. 4 and 2 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. Dec. 11.

Additionally, community members can register for a snow thrower operation course. The next class is scheduled 3:15 to 4 p.m. or 6:15 to 7 p.m. Nov. 13; 3:15 to 4 p.m. Nov. 27; 3:15 to 4 p.m. Dec. 4 and 3:15 to 4 p.m. or 6:15 to 7 p.m. Dec. 11.

"A lot of people have never operated a snow thrower before, so we show them how to use it and how to maintain it," Drozd said.

Drozd said that people should not wait for the first snowfall to make sure their snow thrower is in working order.

He said that attendees are also reminded to wear the right clothes while operating a snow thrower. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat.

To register for either the winter driving or snow thrower operation course, call (315) 772-5352. The classes are held at the Command Safety Office, 432B Lewis Avenue.