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This pickup truck was travelling too fast for the road conditions aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico and wrecked earlier this year.

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PMO: Winter weather driving tips

17 Dec 2014 | Eve A. Baker Marine Corps Base Quantico

Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Provost Marshal’s Office and the fire department respond to a large number of vehicle accidents in the winter that are a result of people not knowing how to handle a vehicle in the snow, according to Gunnery Sgt. Mark Vesely, chief accident reconstructionist for PMO’s Accident Investigation Unit. Vesely shared with the Quantico Sentry PMO’s recommendations for safe winter driving, and they are republished here in modified form.

General winter driving tips:

In wet, slushy or snowy conditions, maintain a steady speed that is safe for road conditions. Driving too quickly or suddenly accelerating can cause a vehicle to skid. Driving too slowly, however, can also cause problems because the vehicle may not have enough momentum to push through heavier snow on the road.

• Before you get in your vehicle, remove all snow from the windows, headlights, brake and signal lights, hood, roof and trunk. Large piles of snow on the hood, roof, or trunk can slide onto the windows while driving, cutting off visibility.

• In snowy or icy road conditions, leave three times as much distance as you normally would between vehicles and brake slowly to avoid skidding.

• Ensure you use all-season windshield washer fluid in your vehicle to avoid the problem of having it freeze in the lines, leaving you unable to clean your windshield.

• Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first.

• Leave your headlights on at all times while driving during rain and snow.

• Ensure your gas tank is at least half-full, as driving with the heat on or engaging four-wheel drive uses more gas than driving under standard conditions.

• Charge your cell phone before leaving and keep a spare charger in the vehicle.

If you start to skid

• If you start to skid, steer carefully and avoid overreacting to keep control of the car. In cars with antilock brakes systems, the brakes are automatically pumped for you in a skid situation. In cars without ABS, apply easy pressure in a pumping motion to the brakes.

• If your rear wheels start to skid, take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.

• If your front wheels start to skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get in trouble

• If you become stranded, to attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna. Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut. Conserve your battery, and be aware of carbon monoxide.

• If you are in an accident, try to get to the right side of the road as far away from traffic as possible. Stay in your car with your seatbelt on. Put the hazard lights on so others on the road can see you. If possible, use flares. Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help and are certain you will improve your situation. Stay warm.

• If you get stuck in a snowy/slushy patch, to gain traction spread some sand in front of your rear wheels for rear-wheel-drive vehicles and in front of your front wheels for front-wheel-drive vehicles.

— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico