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Prevent Blindness America offers winter auto safety tips

November 18, 2009

From press release

CHICAGO—Although winter officially begins in December, in some parts of the country, it is well under way.

Driving in cold, wet and icy conditions can be very dangerous. Before starting up their engines, drivers need to be prepared for unpredictable driving conditions. Motorists should do a thorough check under the hood to help minimize the chance of car problems.

In 2008, automotive batteries alone caused an estimated 1,800 eye injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Prevent Blindness America, a national non-profit organization, is offering tips to drivers to help keep them safe on the road.

See clearly—Windshields should be completely cleared of ice, mud, salt and haze. Replace windshield wiper blades if needed, and consider using winter blades. Always have an ice scraper and snow brush in your car.

Check the tires—Tire pressure and wear should be monitored, including the spare tire. Consider using snow tires for much colder climates.

Check fluid levels—Antifreeze, oil, brake, transmission, power steering and wiper fluid levels and condition need to be checked as well.

Inspect belts and hoses—Make sure all belts and hoses are not frayed or cracked. Make sure all hose connections are secure.

Practice safety—Drivers should slow down. Factor in additional driving time in wintery conditions. All drivers and passengers must always wear seat belts; small children and infants should be securely placed in car seats or booster seats.

Put together an emergency kit—An emergency kit should contain first-aid supplies, a flashlight, blanket, bottled water, food, a shovel and a bag of sand or kitty litter. Make sure you have a fully-charged cellular phone. Drivers should also carry emergency road care items such as flares, jumper cables and a functional spare tire.

Check the battery—Drivers need to test their batteries regularly to make sure they are charging properly and have no corrosion at the connections. Never attempt to charge a frozen battery.

Every year, dead batteries cause millions of cars and trucks to fail to start. Prevent Blindness America wants to warn the public that all vehicle batteries contain sulfuric acid and produce hydrogen and oxygen gases. Improper procedures in jump-starting a dead battery can turn the battery into a bomb, causing serious injuries.

Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America, noted: “In the event of battery acid entering the eye, the injured person should flush the eye with water. If water is not readily available, any drinkable liquid on hand, such as water, milk, juice or any soft drink will work. The injured person should seek medical attention immediately.”

To help ensure motorists know how to safely jump-start an automotive battery, Prevent Blindness America offers free, easy-to-follow instructions.

The “Jump Start Your Battery Safely” sticker can be placed in the glove compartment or other clean, dry location in the car. Prevent Blindness America also offers a “First Aid for Eye Emergencies” sticker that can be placed on the inside door of a medicine cabinet in the home or business, which gives detailed instructions on how to address an eye injury.

Both stickers are available in both English and Spanish, and can be requested through the toll-free number of Prevent Blindness America at (800) 331-2020 or via its Web site at preventblindness.org.

From the November 18-24, 2009 issue

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