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Motorists urged to take caution traveling this holiday season

Making a few preparations before hitting the roadways this holiday season could make all the difference in reaching your destination safely. Eric M. Stigberg, marketing, public and government affairs manager with AAA Northway, Plattsburgh, said there are several things to consider when planning a trip this winter. The first thing to keep in mind, said Mr. Stigberg, is to expect delays weather, traffic or otherwise. Motorists should give themselves enough time to get where they're going and not consider trying to make up lost time on the road. "Be prepared going out of your house. It's going to take you a while to get where you're going to go, especially if you're driving a good distance," said Mr. Stigberg. "You never know what you're going to run into so it's important to take more time." Most important, said Mr. Stigberg, motorists should not get behind the wheel if they are under stress or fatigued. Having too much on your mind when driving can detract from your attention to the road. "People think they need to prepare their car before they go, but they're not thinking about themselves," said Mr. Stigberg. "There's that mental preparation making sure you're not sleepy, making sure you're not stressed, making sure you know where your going and making sure you understand it may take extra time to get there." Having your vehicle serviced prior to a long trip is also a good idea, said Mr. Stigberg. Drivers should ensure their vehicle's tires are properly inflated, fluid levels including windshield washer fluid are adequately filled, and a roadside emergency kit is prepared. "Make sure you have safety precautions with you. This time of year it's cold. Make sure you've got extra blankets to keep everybody warm. Make sure you're carrying water and snacks, because you could be there an extended period of time," said Mr. Stigberg. Prior to departing on a road trip, it's important to have a route properly mapped out, said Mr. Stigberg. Routes may be plotted using atlases, on-line mapping sites or through agencies such as AAA Northway, which also provide information such as where to expect construction zones. When traveling on the highway during the winter, it's a good idea not to use your cruise control setting, said Mr. Stigberg. The ability to lose control of your vehicle is greater when you are not manually controlling the acceleration and deceleration of your vehicle. "[Cruise control] is great when the weather conditions are fine," said Mr. Stigberg, "but if you're in a situation where it's snowing or the roads are potentially icy or wet, never use your cruise control in situations like that." In the event of a vehicle breakdown, the first thing to do is to make sure your vehicle is as far off to the shoulder of the road as possible. When exiting the vehicle, motorists should exercise caution, paying attention to traffic moving behind them. Motorists should also call for help if carrying a cell phone one piece of equipment which Mr. Stigberg highly suggests having on hand. If you do not have a cell phone with you or are in an area where there is no cell phone service, you may also tie a piece of cloth or a flag around your vehicle's side-view mirror or antenna to signify distress. With weather like what the North Country received last weekend, it's also a good idea to call ahead to see if your flight has been delayed or canceled the same holds true for a particular event you plan to attend. When in doubt, use extra caution and ask yourself if where you're going is worth the risk of traveling treacherous roads.

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