NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — The first snow is about to hit, so AAA is encouraging drivers to be prepared for the driving conditions.

According to a news release, the first snow usually catches people off guard, leading to crashes and road service calls for extrications, dead batteries, and flat tires.

“Speed is often the main culprit in crashes during the early days of winter,” said the Regional Director of Public Affairs for AAA, Gene LaDoucer. “Snowy, wet, and icy roads require slower speeds, increased following distances, and cautious braking and lane changes. After months of good driving conditions, drivers often forget these basic tenants of winter driving.”

If you have to be on the road, check the NNDOT and weather before leaving, and change your plans if you need to.

Make sure you have an emergency kit packed containing and phone charger, first-aid kit, extra blankets, hats, gloves, coats, and warm footwear. For longer trips or rural driving, add drinking water and non-perishable snacks, a flashlight and extra batteries, reflective warning triangles, an ice scraper and snow brush, a shovel, and any needed medications.

Make sure you are driving at a safe speed that matches the weather conditions like visibility, traffic, and roads. If you have to drive under the posted speed limit, that is okay. You should also compensate for reduced traction by giving the vehicle in front of you even more space than before. For really good conditions, the following distance is usually three to four seconds, but in snowy and icy conditions, it should be eight to 10 seconds.

You should also never crowd a plow, always allow enough room for maintenance vehicles and plows. You need to be a minimum of 200 feet behind them, and if you need to pass, go to the other vehicle’s left. But keep an eye out for vehicles that have been hidden by the snow cloud and the blades that extend off the plow on the sides and the front.

Watch out for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, just because the rest of the road is in good condition, doesn’t mean they are too. In relation, avoid braking on ice. If you approach a patch of ice, brake during that time and control the skid. Applying pressure to the brakes while on ice will throw the car into a skid.

If you get stuck, whether, in snow or ice, straighten the wheel and slowly accelerate. Add sand, or other traction material, under the drive wheels to avoid spinning the tires. If you lose traction, continue to look and steer in the direction you want to go. If the drive wheels spin or slide while going uphill, ease off the gas slightly and then gently resume speed.

You should also always maintain a half tank of gas to allow for extra fuel to keep the vehicle running in case you get stranded, this also prevents the fuel line from freezing.

Most importantly: slow down, move over. Try to avoid driving on the shoulder or medians so that first responders, tow truck operators, and emergency vehicles can get to stranded drivers who are already along the roadside.

If driving cannot be avoided, drivers can keep their vehicles on the road by checking these few things:

  • Removing all snow and ice, including the hood, roof, trunk, and the entire windshield.
  • Checking the battery strength as faulty batteries can be the cause of starting problems. At 0 degrees, a good battery has 35% less starting power. Batteries that are three to five years old are going to have even less starting power.
  • Check tire inflation as under-inflated tires can be dangerous and suffer damage. Tire pressure will decrease by one to two psi for every 10-degree drop.
  • Replace the wiper blades and those blades need to completely clear the glass with every swipe.
  • Fill washer fluid with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent freezing.