Topeka Lt. John Eichkorn recommends that Kansans who are planning a driving trip as part of their holidays take a test using Abraham Lincoln's head before leaving.
Eichkorn, spokesman for the Kansas Highway Patrol, suggests that people take a penny, which features Lincoln's likeness, and put it in the tread of their tires so that the Great Emancipator's head is upside down. If someone can still see Honest Abe's face, their tires have too little tread.
In bad weather, bald tires make it more likely that a car or van will lose traction and skid, slide or become stuck.
The Highway Patrol has plenty of tips for Kansas motorists who are planning to drive over the holidays. The tips represent common sense but the types of things people forget when they're busy, Eichkorn said.
"It's just better to plan now than to deal with the consequences later," Eichkorn said Friday during an interview. "Some of those consequences can be serious, if not deadly."
Eichkorn said the patrol wanted to offer its winter safety trips because its expects highways to be crowded starting this weekend. Also, he said, the patrol was spurred on by weather forecasts predicting snow through Christmas.
The weather so far this winter has been relatively mild, devoid of snow and ice.
"It's been a long while since most of us have driven in that kind of condition," Eichkorn said. "A little preventive medicine certainly will go a long way."
The patrol says that Kansans should make sure their cars are ready for cold-weather travel. Radiators should be winterized, and gas tanks should be more than half full, for example.
That's where the test involving Lincoln's head comes in. A good tread helps drivers through adverse conditions.
The patrol also recommends that motorists keep a survival kit in their vehicles, one that includes an ice scraper, a shovel, jumper cables, flashlights, extra clothing or blankets, a first-aid kit, candles or flares, matches, and a tow rope.
The kit also should have sand or kitty litter to create traction, the patrol says. Eichkorn said nonperishable food also should be included for most trips.
"You don't know when you may become stranded, for whatever reason," Eichkorn said. "Once a car quits running, there's no heat."
The patrol also says drivers should give themselves extra time for heavy traffic and weather-related delays.