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Tips for staying safe on the roads and sidewalks during a storm

Sunday - 12/8/2013, 7:21am  ET

WASHINGTON -- The weather and traffic gods may are not smiling on the D.C. region.

Much of the area could get blasted Sunday with a nasty wintry mix of freezing rain, sleet and possibly a few inches of snow. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens both have home games, and plenty of people still have holiday shopping to do.

That mix could be a disaster on the roads. Then again, heavy traffic could be a godsend.

"The friction caused between tires on the road creates heat which often leads to increased melting of snow and ice faster than less traveled roads," says Martin Tirado, CEO of the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA), a non-profit trade association based in Milwaukee.

Avoiding less-treated side streets may be a smart things to do.

Even without snow, the roads are likely to get slick, and icy conditions could be a bigger issue.

"You have to be really careful of ice accumulation under snow, or things like black ice, which can be very hard to visually hard to see, yet very dangerous," says Tirado.

The same concerns go for pedestrians in soggy conditions.

"Of the more than one million injuries in the U.S. caused by falls, the most common is the slip-and-fall," Tirado says.

SIMA has a list of tips for surviving a wintery ice storm:

  • Wear proper footwear, which should place the entire foot on the surface of the ground and have visible treads. Avoid smooth soles and opt for a heavy-treaded shoe with a flat bottom.

  • Anticipate the ice. Be wary of black ice - thin sheets of ice that may look like wet pavement. Ice commonly appears in the morning, in shady spots or where the sun shines during the day and melted snow refreezes at night.

  • Plan ahead. While walking on icy sidewalks or in parking lots, walk consciously. Instead of looking down, look up and see where your feet will move next to anticipate ice or an uneven surface. Scan from left to right to ensure you are not in the way of vehicles or other hazards. When stepping off a curb, using steps or getting into a car, be careful since shifting your weight may cause an imbalance and result in a fall.

  • Avoid taking shortcuts. Shortcuts are a good idea if you are in a hurry, but may be a bad idea if there is ice on the ground. A shortcut path, such as walking across a median in a parking lot, may be treacherous because it is likely to be located where snow and ice removal is not possible.

  • Stay back. Make sure you remain a good distance away from snow removal equipment. While the strong lights on the snow removal equipment should allow the professional to see you, these lights can be blinding if they are behind you. In addition, some trucks may be spreading salt or other materials designed to melt snow and ice and you don't want those materials on your windshield further blocking your ability to see.

  • No need for speed. You know to slow down in the rain, but it's even truer in snow and ice. The time and space you need to stop and the possibility of sliding on ice all increase when it starts to snow or when freezing conditions persist.

  • Stay home and be safe. During an ice event, spend some quality time at home.

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