HOUSTON - As 7.1 million travelers take to the roads for the year-end holidays, AAA Texas anticipates coming to the assistance of about 210,000 stranded motorists this winter.
During December through February Texans experience a variety of unpredictable winter weather conditions ranging from snow and ice to flash flooding. Additionally, navigating through construction projects during adverse weather conditions can also be difficult and risky for drivers as well as road workers. Throughout the upcoming winter season AAA Texas roadside assistance professionals anticipate they will be busy with lockouts, battery replacements, jump starts, tire changes, vehicle towing and more.
Drivers will be able to avoid the causes of some roadside breakdowns as well as safely navigate construction areas by keeping their vehicles properly maintained. As the Texas Department of Transportation tackles expanding or improving more than 100 miles of I-35 across the state - educating the public on the necessity of safe driving and proper vehicle maintenance is a top priority.
According to TxDOT, in 2011, there were 14,670 crashes in roadway construction and maintenance zones in Texas, resulting in 116 fatalities, the majority of which were motorists. Currently, TxDOT has 20 active work zones along I-35 encompassing 109.6 miles from north to south Texas - the most the agency has ever had on the state's main corridor.
This winter AAA Texas expects to receive more than 210,000 requests for assistance across the state. About 44,000 requests will be for help with a dead battery. AAA also expects to retrieve more than 1,800 sets of keys locked inside vehicles, change more than 31,000 tires and assist in towing more than 87,000 vehicles during the winter months.
"Becoming stranded on the roadway or in a construction zone is the last thing on anyone's wish list," said AAA Texas/AAA New Mexico Operations Manager of Automotive Services Cliff Upchurch. "Having your vehicle properly maintained and prepared for winter driving will help ensure it gets you and your loved ones to your destination safely and without any incidents."
AAA Texas advises motorists to follow their vehicle manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule and make sure their vehicle is ready for the rigors of winter driving.
Here are a few things to add to your list before heading out for your holiday drive:
- Antifreeze - Check antifreeze annually to ensure it will withstand the winter cold. A 50/50 mixture of coolant and water will protect against freezing.
- Windshield wipers and washer fluid - Replace wiper blades if they do not clear the glass in a single swipe without streaking. Where appropriate, consider the use of special winter blades that offer improved performance in snow and ice conditions. Fill the windshield washer reservoir with winter detergent fluid to prevent freeze up.
- Tires - Cold weather reduces tire inflation pressure, so check tire pressures frequently and maintain the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure found on the driver's door jamb-not the pressure stamped on the tire sidewall. Motorists should never reduce tire pressure in an attempt to increase traction on snow and ice. This does not work, and when the roads dry out it can cause excessive tire wear and vehicle handling problems.
- Battery - Check for a secure fit and clean away any corrosion on the battery and its cable connections. If the battery is out of warranty, it's advisable to have it tested before cold weather hits. If replacement is necessary, have a certified technician help select the proper battery for your vehicle type and local climate. In many areas, AAA members can make an appointment to have a AAA Battery Service technicians visit their home or office to check and replace batteries.
- Belts and hoses - Replace accessory drive belts that are cracked, glazed or frayed, as well as coolant hoses that are visibly worn, brittle, bulging or excessively soft. Check for leaks around hose clamps and at the radiator and water pump.
Other important areas to have a certified technician check in preparation for winter include;
- the vehicle's fluid levels,
- exhaust system
- and heater/defroster.
Throughout the winter driving season, motorists should continue to have regular services, including oil and filter changes, performed at the intervals recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
AAA encourages motorists to update their emergency roadside kit for winter to include;
- a mobile phone and car charger;
- a flashlight with extra batteries;
- a first-aid kit;
- drinking water;
- a small shovel;
- a sack of sand,
- cat litter or traction mats;
- windshield scraper and brush;
- battery booster cables;
- and emergency flares or reflectors.
Consumers can find Approved Auto Repair facilities online at AAA.com/repair.
Android and iPhone users can download AAA Mobile, AAA's mobile smartphone app that provides selected AAA services for all motorists, such as mapping and gas price comparison, as well as member-exclusive benefits including roadside assistance and discounts. AAA Membership is not required to download and use AAA apps, but is necessary to take advantage of unique member benefits such as roadside assistance.