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Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

5 tips to stay safe in the slippery days of winter

Rain is a near constant here in the Pacific Northwest.
From a light drizzle to soaking downpours, the steady flow off the Pacific Ocean dampens roads and walkways making them slick and dangerous.
Falls and traffic accidents are some of the most common factors behind injury and hospitalizations for the elderly.
There are some steps to take that can help you make sure you don't lose your footing.
Here are some tips to remember:
Watch your step
Each year, the leading cause of injury death in people over 60 is falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sidewalks and walkways can be slick and slippery when wet. Use handrails and wear non-skid shoes. Take small steps and stay low to prevent a fall. Staying active and asking doctors about side effects from medication also helps, experts say.
Lighten up
While daylight hours are increasing, winter weather can make mid-day seem like midnight. Use outdoor lighting to help shine the way. Make sure appropriate voltage light bulbs cast a bright enough hue along outdoor areas where people are likely to walk. Keep the lights on or use motion-sensors to trigger them whenever people are nearby. "That's good for you and bad for intruders," experts on a nursing Web site said.
Slow down
Leave plenty of time to reach a destination and slow down when the roads are wet, said Washington State Patrol trooper Keith Leary. Hydroplaning often can be avoided by simply letting up on the gas and driving slowly. "While the speed limit signs are posted, they are set for dry pavement," he said. "During bad weather people need to slow down and take extra precautions. Pay attention and make sure to leave plenty of room for stopping."
Be prepared
Make sure that you are prepared for bad weather, Leary said. Stock your car with basic winter driving equipment: a scraper and brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Include road flares, a blanket, heavy boots, warm clothing and flashlight with batteries. "Make sure your windshield wipers clear your windows properly," the trooper said. Wiper blades should be replaced every year, according to the National Safety Council. If it's still hard to see out the windshield, you may try using a windshield repellent like Rain-X. This company also sells blades coated in a repellent. You also may spray the repellent on a cloth and then coat the wiperblades already on your car.
Stay tuned
Check local news sources including Heraldnet.com or the National Weather Service to learn the latest forecast. If the weather is supposed to get really bad, consider postponing your trip. "Make sure that you provide extra time to get to where you are going, especially in cold, rainy, snowy or icy conditions," Leary said. Check road conditions at the state Department of Transportation Web site: wsdot.wa.gov.
Story tags » Senior issues

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