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DARMSTADT, Germany — It’s no secret winter driving can make a routine trip turn into a scary version of slip and slide, yet year after year Americans hit European highways with as much gusto as on a dry summer day.

It’s not that people don’t have common sense, said Wolfgang Rieth, the Safety and Occupation Health specialist for Installation Management Agency, Europe; they just need to be reminded to use it when the temperature goes south.

One reminder is the U.S. Army Europe Winter Safety Campaign, which will run until May 2004. The campaign is designed to help servicemembers and their families “defeat a winter season of hazards prevalent in all we do,” according to a memorandum signed by Gen. B.B. Bell, USAREUR commander.

This means paying attention to road conditions and weather where the driver is and where the driver is going.

Rieth suggests that any small problems with vehicles be fixed now, before the weather gets any worse, and that motorists prepare for the cold by keeping brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, heater and exhaust system in top condition. For added safety, there is a special solvent to add to the windshield washer reservoir to prevent icing.

He also said to check the antifreeze and the tires before driving in winter conditions and carry tire chains, an ice scraper, a broom for brushing snow off the car, a shovel to free a stuck car, and sand or burlap for traction if wheels become mired in snow.

Rieth also said it would be a good idea to take along water, food, warm blankets and extra clothing. Plus, motorists should keep an extra car key in their pocket.

Rieth said the key to staying safe is allowing more travel time; keeping the gas tank full because of possible traffic delays or because it may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm; keeping the windshield and windows clear; slowing down since snow and ice make required stopping distances much longer; and being more observant.

The American Forces Network broadcasts local weather conditions on the radio in the mornings and afternoons through affiliate radio stations across most of central Europe.

Also, AFN now provides local weather updates on the Internet at afneurope.net, according to Roger Williams, AFN spokesman. Along with the weather, command announcements on cancellations of work, school or other community services are reported.

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