The Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force is encouraging local drivers to stay as safe as possible on area roadways this winter."Most of us believe that we are good drivers," a task force press release states. "However, traffic data, crash investigations, and other evidence suggest that we could be better drivers. Driving safely is a constant challenge."Now more than half-way through the fall season and approaching winter, the task force says that drivers need a few reminders of vehicle operations during inclement weather."Before leaving home, find out about the driving conditions and prepare your vehicle," the release states. "Safe drivers know the weather and they know their limits. If the weather is bad, remember, 'Ice and snow, take it slow, or just don’t go!' ”Advance preparation and planning for winter driving can make the difference between a minor inconvenience and a potentially dangerous situation. The following winter checklist is a guide to readying yourself and your car for the challenges ahead.Winterize your vehicle. Now is the time to familiarize yourself with the basic functions of your motor vehicle and where essential components are located. Your best reference is the vehicle owner’s manual, which details the ins-and-outs of your car, down to the maintenance schedules and fluid replacements. Once you’ve consulted the owner’s manual, be sure to have a certified automotive technician check the following:• Wipers, Tires and Lights – Wiper blades should be replaced every six months. The windshield should be full without cracks. Tires should be inspected for wear and be sure they are properly inflated according to manufacturer’s recommendation. Before hitting the road all lights and signals on the vehicle must be operational.• Engine – Your motor vehicle’s oil and oil filter should be changed in accordance with the vehicle owner’s manual. The air filter should be inspected, too, and replaced as needed. Fuel filters should be checked for clogs or leaks. A thorough inspection of the ignition system should include spark plugs and wires, distributor, emission system components and the fuel-injection system. If necessary, have an auto technician tune the engine.• Battery – Have the battery load tested for weakness. Be sure all contacts are clean and cables are secure.• Cooling System – Check the level and freezing point of your vehicle’s radiator fluid.The freezing point should test to at least 35 degrees below zero. If necessary, add a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water (the water reduces the corrosive nature of antifreeze). Check all hoses; they should not be excessively soft or brittle. The cooling system should be flushed every other year.• Braking System – Check the brake fluid level. If you car’s brakes squeal or pull the vehicle to one side when applied, or if the pedal feels soft when pumped, have the brake system inspected.• Transmission – Check the transmission fluid of your vehicle. Add fluid and change the filter if necessary. On rear-wheel drive cars, check the level of fluid in the differential.• Underneath the Car – Lubricate the steerage linkage according to the owner’s manual. Have the exhaust system inspected for leaks that could affect the engine performance and possibly allow deadly fumes to seep into the car.• Doors and Locks – Make sure that all working parts on your vehicle’s doors are properly lubricated. Frozen door locks can be overcome by using commercially available lock de-icers, never use hot water. Other methods to open frozen locks include aiming a hair dryer at the frozen lock or heating the key with a lighter or a match.The Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force is also encouraging drivers to plan trips. Listen to weather and traffic reports on television or radio and allow extra travel time. Avoid unnecessary trips by making a plan to accomplish multiple tasks while you are out. Advise a family member or friend of your plans and your route. Plan for alternate routes if needed. Call 9-1-1 for true emergencies only; 1-800-695-ROAD (or 5-1-1 from your cellular phone) for current road conditions; and 1-800-84-FERRY for current information concerning the Washington State Ferries.Also plan for the unexpected. Carry warm clothing or blankets. Keep extra non-perishable food and drink in your vehicle with you in the event that you are stranded away from your residence. If you have infants in your vehicle, plan to keep baby formula and diapers. Consider medications. Think of optional places to stay. Keep phone numbers of friends and relatives with you in your vehicle.Also during winter months, drivers should consider carrying some additional equipment in their vehicles, such as: tire chains; a shovel; first aid supplies; communications equipment; gloves, a flashlight and an ice scraper are good to have in your vehicle.Here is a quick list of some safe driving tips:• Always wear your seat belt and slow down!• Increase your following distance.• Avoid unnecessary lane changes.• Warm your vehicle prior to driving to avoid stalling and to allow windows to properly defrost.• Keep the fuel tank at least half full.• Drive with vehicle lights on to increase visibility.• Be especially cognizant for the presence of black ice, during morning commute hours, on overpasses and bridges and in areas that receive very little sunlight.If you are unable to continue driving due to icy road conditions, make every effort to move your vehicle off of the roadway. Many times drivers leave their vehicles in the traveled portion of the road. Remember that you are responsible for keeping your vehicle on the road and avoiding collisions. Adjust your speed according to the conditions and increase your following distance. The only difference between someone who drives too fast, slides off of the road and hits nothing, compared to someone who drives too fast, slides across the center line and kills someone in a head-on collision, is luck. The cause of these two collisions is the same: speed. You will be issued a traffic notice of infraction. If you are involved in a traffic collision, stay in your vehicle. More collisions will occur if the road is icy. The safest place is in your vehicle. If you collide with another vehicle and there are no injuries, move the vehicles to a safe location to exchange information. Keep in mind that emergency resources will be operating at capacity when conditions are hazardous. Remember: if you operate an all wheel drive vehicle… they do not stop any betterthan two wheel drive vehicles. If road and weather conditions are not favorable and you don’t have to go out, stay home. If you must go out, be prepared and be patient.Above all:• Don’t drink and drive. Use a designated driver.• Focus on the road – Drive cell safe!