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It is finally here: Old Man Winter.

While we have been experiencing a warmer December than usual, the harsher winter months still lie ahead. And with cold weather comes the possibility of snow, sleet and ice. The AAA MidAtlantic website offers tips to stay safe while traversing the roadways during winter. We have selected a few to include here. For a complete list, go to http://midatlantic.aaa.com/Foundation/WinterDriving.

Ÿ Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage;

Ÿ Make certain your tires are properly inflated;

Ÿ Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze up;

Ÿ If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather;

Ÿ Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle;

Ÿ Clear off snow and ice from your vehicle before starting out;

Ÿ Slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you;

Ÿ Ask yourself the following questions: “Is this trip really necessary?” “Is my vehicle ready for this trip?” “Am I mentally and physically prepared to make this trip?”

Ÿ Realize traffic moves at a slower rate in inclement weather: Don’t let your emotions affect your driving.

The website also suggests drivers keep the following items in an emergency kit in the vehicle: Flashlight with fresh batteries; blankets; booster cables; ice scraper; small bag of abrasive material, such as sand or cat litter; cloth or a roll of paper towels; small shovel; cell phone; can of de-icer; and a warning device, such as flares or reflective triangle.

We can’t avoid whatever Mother Nature throws at us. Our state and county road crews work hard to keep roads as safe as possible for travel during harsh weather. We can do our part to help them, and our emergency responders, by staying off the roads before they are cleared. We can also take steps to make sure we are prepared as much as possible for the weather ahead.