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Winter driving in and around Seattle

The Seattle area is well-known for difficult winter driving conditions. Wet, cold weather often leads to slippery roads. Long commutes compound the problem; 4 out of every 10 drivers in Seattle are behind the wheel 30 minutes or more. During winter the commute is often in darkness. 

What is a Washingtonian to do? Inclement weather is on the way, so take measures now to prepare for the season ahead. 

Before bad weather hits 

Prepare your vehicle. Install traction tires or carry chains and learn how to install them properly. Stock an emergency bag with a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, ice scraper, gloves, boots, blankets and a first aid kit—then keep the bag in the auto at all times. Always bring a phone charger and enough water and snacks to last a few hours in case you are unexpectedly stuck on the road. If predictions indicate the possibility of bad weather, check Washington’s Department of Transportation website for road conditions and avoid driving if necessary. 

During storms 

If you must drive on wet, snowy or icy roads, slow down. Allow extra time and distance to perform each task, including starting, stopping and turning. Never use cruise control and be sure your headlights are on even in daylight. If you notice a vehicle in front of you sliding or swerving, stay twice as far back as normal. Remember that bridges may be icy even when surrounding roads are not. 

After an accident 

Despite your best efforts, you may end up in an accident. If your car is drivable, get it out of traffic and in a spot visible to other drivers; use flares and put hazard lights on. Check for injuries, report the incident to authorities, take pictures of the accident, exchange information with the other driver and get the phone number of any witnesses present. Seek medical evaluation within a day or two even if you do not feel hurt; certain serious injuries may not be immediately evident.