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Stay safe and warm this winter at home and on the road

Stay safe and warm this winter at home and on the road

RICHMOND—Old Man Winter can be treacherous, and whether you’re heading out on the road or hunkering down at home this season, it’s important to take the proper precautions to stay safe.

With over 70% of U.S. thoroughfares located in areas that experience snow and ice, it’s no wonder more than 150,000 crashes occur annually due to dangerous road conditions.

Before venturing out, Drive Smart Virginia urges drivers to wait out storms and share travel plans with someone. Plan your route in advance, and monitor the weather, road conditions and traffic. Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before leaving, even when using GPS. And ensure your phone is fully charged in case you need to make an emergency call.

“Adjust your driving habits according to the weather conditions you encounter,” advised Rich Jacobs, Drive Smart Virginia’s public relations and outreach manager. “If road conditions are poor, it may be best to avoid unnecessary travel until conditions improve.”

Caution is key when traveling on wintry roads, Jacobs said. Slow down and increase following distance 10 seconds or more to allow ample stopping time, don’t engage cruise control, and always accelerate and decelerate slowly on slick surfaces.

Keep your car winter-ready, and perform a car inspection ahead of your trip. Check the fluids, brakes, hoses, battery, lights and wiper blades, and replace any worn or damaged tires. Always keep your fuel tank at least half full, and have an emergency kit for your car, like this one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Before leaving town, it’s also important to protect your home from potential wintry disasters, advised Laurie Gannon, vice president of claims for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.

“Maintain your heat at a reasonable temperature—over 60 degrees,” to help prevent frozen pipes while away, she said.

Schedule preventive maintenance, and keep homes snug by caulking and sealing around exterior windows and doors and adding weatherstripping. Insulate pipes near exterior walls and in hard-to-reach places like attics and crawl spaces.

Also ensure chimneys, fireplaces and woodstoves are cleaned annually to prevent chimney fires and keep carbon monoxide from building up indoors.

Outside the home, check your roof, and replace loose, damaged or missing shingles. Fix any gaps or broken seals around vents, chimneys and roof corners. Roof leaks and ice dams can be avoided by clearing debris from gutters and drains. Trim tree branches overhanging your house, shut down sprinkler systems and drain outdoor faucets, irrigation systems and hoses.

Finally, take an inventory of your home, and know what’s covered, Gannon noted.

“It’s always time well spent to review your policy with your insurance agent,” she said. “Our agents can provide details on any new enhancements to home or business policies that you may be missing out on.”

Media: Contact Jacobs at 804-929-6117 or Gannon at 804-290-1423.