FORT LEE, Va. --As winter tightens its grip on Central Virginia, motorists will frequently face frosty windows and mirrors, especially during their morning commute.

Attempting to operate a vehicle that is frost-covered is like putting a blanket over the windows and trying to peek through the cracks. The notion seems ludicrous, but consider the similarity to a blanket of frost and a driver squinting through the small area of windshield hurriedly cleared with an ice scraper. This careless practice routinely happens on our highways every winter.

In today’s on-the-go society, not fully clearing vehicle windows and mirrors of snow, ice or frost is a growing concern – one that could have consequences for an individual’s auto insurance. Many jurisdictions are clamping down on peephole driving, as being unable to clearly see the road boosts the potential for auto accidents and auto insurance claims.

Knowing the risk associated with this issue, Fort Lee community members should take action to avoid becoming part of the winter-driving-safety problem. The most obvious fix is allotting extra time for vehicle warm-up and window clearing before hitting the road. Other frost-removal tricks include the following:

•Activate the window washer fluid a few times. It contains alcohol to assist in cleaning as well as to prevent the reservoir from freezing. A few sprays on the windshield should soften stubborn ice patches. And it’s a good idea, of course, to keep the fluid reservoir full, but don’t use regular water as it’s susceptible to freezing.

•If the vehicle is equipped with a rear-window defroster, use it. Many forget the feature exists or fail to activate it before heading out on the road.

•Use a can of deicer or an ice scraper to clear outside mirrors, if not equipped with defrosters. Be sure to clear both the driver and passenger mirrors.

•The most energy-efficient tool for clearing ice is sunlight. Park vehicles left outdoors overnight so they will receive the first rays of morning sun. Another useful tool is wind; find parking spaces where a regular breeze is blowing across the windshield.

Remember also that cold weather is hard on vehicle components. Do not race the engine in an attempt to get it to warm up quicker. Keep the fuel tank as full as possible to reduce moisture condensing inside fuel lines and freezing. Use gasoline antifreeze or other additives to remove water from the fuel system.

Carbon monoxide is another concern during winter months. Never idle an engine for a prolonged period with windows rolled up, particularly if snow is covering the exhaust pipe. Listen for exhaust leaks and promptly repair defective components. Do not sleep in a running vehicle, and do not warm up a vehicle while it’s inside a garage.

The bottom line is to think safety first, and always, with winter driving. Setting the conditions for a safe commute, slowing down and being prepared for reduced visibility due to weather or longer hours of darkness are some of the best ways to avoid becoming an accident statistic.