AAA Mid-Atlantic is advising drivers to be cautious on roads this winter, as weather and the COVID-19 pandemic can combine to make more dangerous conditions for travelers and rescue crews.
“Getting stuck or stranded in a car during a winter storm can prove life-threatening, even while you are waiting to be rescued,” a recent AAA news release said.
But that danger has increased this winter as road crews prepare to assist people who might be stranded and also spread the virus.
“The surging coronavirus pandemic has added a layer of complexity to all our interactions, including the interactions necessary when AAA provides emergency roadside service,” John B. Townsend II, public and government affairs manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in the release.
“At AAA it is always our intention to minimize risk and, this year, minimizing risk means giving additional consideration to car care to ensure your safety, the safety of all your passengers and the safety of the AAA roadside rescue team,” he said.
Last winter, AAA responded to more than 238,000 calls for emergency roadside service in the Virginia, Maryland, D.C. area.
In Virginia, AAA responded to nearly 96,000 calls for rescue.
More than 40% of the calls in Virginia required a tow, and about 30% of the calls from drivers in Virginia were for dead batteries.
“This winter that number could be even higher because so many vehicles have been sitting idle because of the coronavirus pandemic,” the release said.
Some tips AAA suggests are to have batteries checked with a professional to ensure durability during cold weather (batteries last about three to five years, the release said.)
Also, check engines at a good repair shop to have any drivability problems corrected and replace worn tires, windshield wipers, fluids and any burned out bulbs.
“Have your mechanic check the exhaust system for leaks and look for any holes in the trunk and floorboards,” the release said.
“Carry an emergency kit equipped for winter weather,” it added. “Some 40 percent of motorists fail to carry one.”
This year, emergency kits should include:
• A mask.
• A mobile phone pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services, and car charger.
• Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats.
• Small snow shovel.
• Flashlight with fresh batteries.
• Window washer solvent.
• Ice scraper with brush.
• Jumper cables.
• First-aid kit.
• Flare or bright triangle for visibility.
• Blankets, extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves).
• Drinking water.
• Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers.
• Extra medications,
AAA is offering members a free, contactless check of their battery anytime through its mobile battery service at cluballiance.aaa.com and said the AAA technician can replace the battery on site if necessary. AAA approved auto repair shops can also test and replace weak batteries, the release said.