Seniors Digest
KIPDA Area Agency on Aging and
Independent Living
  January 1, 2006 

Winter Driving: Do You or Don't You?

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"DON'T" is the best advice that one can give to senior citizens who are thinking about driving on winter roads in Kentucky. After close to 25 years of travel on slick roads in Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming, I can tell you that winter driving in the Bluegrass is not for everybody.

Winter weather is normal in Pennsylvania and Utah for at least five months a year, and even longer in Wyoming which only has two seasons: July/August and snow. Contrast that to Kentucky where ice and snow occurrences are usually a one-day event and limited to about half-a-dozen times a year.

What this means is that the snow states routinely combat hazardous road conditions efficiently with qualified personnel and proper equipment and supplies, making winter travel a relatively safe experience. It also means that these consistent winter weather patterns require motorists to be skilled in navigating on slippery highways so they may carry on their daily lives safely and uninterrupted.

However, icy and snowy roads are a different breed of cat in Kentucky. Being a southern state, the Commonwealth is ill-equipped to cope with bad road conditions. KDOT's foremost ally in ice and snow removal is warm and sunny weather. Its highway department has neither the equipment nor training to deal with winter roads in any sort of an effective manner. Our county road departments are in the same dog sled for the same reasons.

Add to this mix the ingredient that few Kentuckians are experienced in driving on wintry roads and you have a dangerous recipe. Having inexperienced winter drivers on untreated winter roads often results in serious traffic accidents especially for us seniors. 

So if you are a retired senior, it's a good idea to practice DON'T on those rare days when the roads are ice or snow covered. Going to the post office, store or even church are not reasons to bend the DON'T rule. The standard operating procedure on such days is to resist the urge to drive and stay put in the comfort and safety of your home.

However, if you must travel on Kentucky's slick and slippery roads, then you need to exercise all or many of the following precautions:

Vehicle Checklist

  • Filled gas tank
  • Tuned engine
  • Use all weather tires                            
  • Check tires & pressure
  • Check battery
  • Check head/park/interior lights
  • Check turn signals/flashers
  • Check brakes/lights
  • Check belts/hoses
  • Check all fluid levels
  • Check antifreeze
  • Check wipers/windshield fluid
  • Check heater/defrosters front & rear
  • Check radiator/thermostat

Carry in Vehicle

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Flares with breakdown triangle
  • First aid kit
  • Cell phone/phone numbers
  • Booster cables
  • Extra warm clothing
  • Blankets
  • Small hand tools/shovel
  • Matches/candles/paper
  • Road maps
  • Bottled water
  • Canned fruit/nuts
  • Small bags of sand
  • Ice scraper/Snow brush

When Leaving

  • Know current road conditions
  • Know weather report/forecast
  • Allow extra time for arrival 
  • Allow engine to warm
  • Turn on heater/defroster
  • Scrape/clean all surfaces & windows
  • Check/adjust all mirrors

When Driving

  • Use your safety belts
  • Turn on headlights
  • Tune into weather station
  • Drive slowly and gently
  • Brake early
  • Follow at 10-second interval
  • Don't use cruise control
  • Turn in direction of skid
  • Remember that bridges and overpasses freeze first
  • Stay behind plows/spreaders
  • Travel with a co-pilot


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Winter Driving: Do You or Don't You?
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